Pittsboro and Sanford: Merging for a brighter water future

Pittsboro, NC – On a pleasant Saturday morning, September 2nd, 2023, I sat down with Pittsboro Commissioner Kyle Shipp for a conversation. He shared insights into the town’s water situation and its merger with Sanford regarding water and sewer services. With a promise of improved water quality, lower rates, and increased development opportunities, my discussion with Kyle sheds light on the town’s future prospects.

The Water Situation in Pittsboro: A Year of Progress

Commissioner Shipp started the conversation on a positive note by emphasizing Pittsboro’s water quality. “We have some of the best water in North Carolina,” he proudly stated. The town recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) system, an investment that has yielded exceptional results.

Testing data for the GAC system has exceeded expectations. Shipp noted that it has achieved 100% removal of certain hazardous compounds and at least 93% removal of others. This system’s success is crucial for ensuring the safety and well-being of Pittsboro’s residents.

Environmental Concerns and Water Quality

Addressing concerns raised by the Haw River Assembly about pollutants coming downstream, Commissioner Shipp assured that the town is closely monitoring the situation. Efforts are in place to ensure that any contaminants are effectively managed. He mentioned that 1,4-dioxane levels have been relatively low recently, thanks to prompt actions taken by Pittsboro’s staff. Moreover, the Haw River Assembly’s river testing revealed a significant reduction in Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAs) in the river overall. This reduction signifies that the recently installed filtration system is operatinge more efficiently and cost-effectively.

Coordinating with Sanford: The Merger Explained

Commissioner Shipp discussed the merger between Pittsboro and Sanford, providing insights into its implications for both towns. As of August, both towns approved the merger, and now, the focus is on coordinating the merger at the staff level. The merger aims to transfer the ownership and operation of Pittsboro’s water and wastewater utilities to Sanford.

With this merger, Sanford will take on the responsibility of providing water and sewer services to Pittsboro. This transition will eventually lead to water bills coming from Sanford, along with the provision of water and wastewater services. However, Pittsboro will still have a role in the allocation of sewer capacity.

Maintaining Critical Infrastructure

Shipp shed light on the necessity of the GAC system and the reason behind the previous rate adjustments. The three-and-a-half-million-dollar investment was essential to ensure the city’s water met rigorous quality standards. The results, evident in the one-year assessment, have proven this investment to be invaluable in safeguarding public health.

Benefits and Opportunities Arising from the Merger

As part of the merger, Pittsboro residents witnessed a welcomed reduction of five percent in water rates. This decision was made to alleviate some of the financial burden on customers. System development fees, associated with new connections, were concurrently adjusted to help offset costs.

The merger not only reduces water rates for Pittsboro customers but also opens doors to greater development opportunities. Pittsboro will see an increase in sewer capacity, a significant factor in promoting residential and commercial growth.

In about two years, Pittsboro will have approximately two million gallons of additional sewer capacity, followed by an additional three million gallons in the future. This increased capacity will enable residential and commercial development that was previously hindered due to a lack of sewer infrastructure.

Looking Ahead: Challenges and Solutions

As the population of Pittsboro continues to grow, Shipp emphasized the importance of planning for future capacity needs. Projects of this magnitude demand careful consideration, but the benefits in terms of development and improved services will be felt for years to come.

Quick notes

  • 💧 Pittsboro has some of the best water in North Carolina thanks to the Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) system, which has been operating effectively for a year.
  • 💧 The Haw River Assembly has reported a reduction in PFAs in the river, which improves the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of Pittsboro’s filtration system.
  • 💧 Pittsboro and Sanford have approved a merger, and staff are working on coordinating the transfer of responsibilities, with an expected completion within a year.
  • 💧 The merger involves Sanford taking ownership and operation of Pittsboro’s water and wastewater utilities, resulting in a 5% reduction in water rates for Pittsboro customers.
  • 💧 Employees at Pittsboro’s water and wastewater plants will have the opportunity to work for the city of Sanford, with similar benefits and roles.
  • 💧 The merger will also lead to expanded sewer capacity in Pittsboro, facilitating residential and commercial development.
  • 💧 Pittsboro plans to allocate sewer capacity based on development type and aims to encourage prompt utilization of allocated capacity.
  • 💧 The merger provides for additional water capacity, which will support population growth in Pittsboro over the next few years.
  • 💧 The water facilities in Pittsboro are equipped to deal with emerging contaminants like PFAS, positioning them ahead of future EPA regulations.

Go to YouTube to watch the Pittsboro commissioner Kyle Shipp discusses the water situation video.

00:09 The water situation in Pittsboro has improved greatly, with some of the best water in North Carolina.

  • The town has implemented the GAC system, which has been working even better than expected.
  • The removal of harmful compounds has been successful, with some compounds completely removed and others reduced by at least 93%.

02:14 Testing shows significant reduction in PFAs in the river. Merger with Sanford approved.

  • Testing indicates lower levels of PFAs in the river due to efforts with Greensboro and Burlington.
  • Installed filtration system expected to work better and be less expensive.
  • Merger with Sanford approved and coordination at staff level ongoing.
  • Details of merger being worked out, including job offers for affected staff.
  • More information to be provided about transfer of billing and operations.
  • Merger with Sanford involves transfer of ownership and operation of utilities.

04:22 Sanford will take on responsibilities and complete projects related to sewer and water in Pittsboro.

  • In addition to the allocation of sewer projects, Pittsboro will still have a role in the process.
  • Pittsboro will have increased sewer capacity and additional water availability, leading to business opportunities and residential/commercial expansion.

06:16 Pittsboro and Sanford systems merged, resulting in lower rates for Pittsboro customers and new job opportunities for employees

  • Rates in Pittsboro were lowered by 5% after the merger
  • Employees at wastewater and water plants will have the option to work for the city of Sanford

08:22 The water system in Pittsboro was upgraded in 18 months, resulting in improved water quality.

  • We had to spend cash on the upgrade, leading to increased rates.
  • The upgrade was necessary for the health of people in Pittsboro.
  • The water rates had to be raised to pay for the upgrade.
  • The upgrade has been successful, with significant removal of harmful compounds in the water.
  • The merger of sewer and water systems in Pittsboro will allow for future development and more capacity.

10:19 Sewer infrastructure development will bring opportunities for residential and commercial growth.

  • Sewer infrastructure development will enable building houses and other developments on the west side of town.
  • A sewer allocation policy is being developed to ensure a fair process for distributing sewer access.
  • Residential customers can expect quicker allocations for additions and infill development.
  • Larger development projects may have to wait 18 to 24 months for sewer access.

12:16 Pittsboro is increasing sewer capacity to accommodate future growth

  • The current sewer capacity is being used to meet the immediate needs of the new homes
  • Future plans include adding additional capacity of 2 million gallons and 3 million gallons
  • This additional capacity will cover sewer needs for at least 20 years
  • Population growth in Pittsboro is projected to be around 5 percent
  • Chatham Park is a major contributor to the growth in the area

14:08 Development of sewer capacity will take a couple of years to make accurate predictions.

  • Other development will determine the sewer capacity.
  • Accurate predictions will only be possible after 10-20 years.
  • The staff at the water and wastewater treatment facilities are excellent.
  • They are leaders in dealing with emerging contaminants.
  • Regulations for treating PFAs and other contaminants will be in place in 3-5 years.
  • A tour of the water facilities involves understanding the process of water treatment.
  • Tasting the water is not part of the tour.
  • Next, we will discuss the social district.