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Cumberland committee moves forward with proposed bulk water deal with PWC

A partnership with the YMCA for a planned aquatic center in Hope Mills receives a unanimous recommendation.


The Cumberland County Gray’s Creek Committee of the Board of Commissioners on Wednesday received an update on a proposed bulk water agreement with the Fayetteville Public Works Commission to provide services to the Gray’s Creek Water and Sewer District.

The county has a draft of the planned agreement and is continuing to negotiate terms with the local utility.

In other business, the board’s Finance Audit Committee voted unanimously to recommend that the full Board of Commissioners enter into a proposed partnership to bring a year-round aquatic center to Hope Mills.

“We feel like this service for the community is not just Hope Mills but for the whole county,” Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner said during a presentation Wednesday.

The city of Fayetteville has agreed to participate in the partnership, according to Rick Houp, the CEO of the YMCA of the Sandhills.

Houp and Warner said they were asking the county to support the aquatic center services for $5,500 a month over 10 years. The full Board of Commissioners is expected to take up the item at its March 10 meeting.

Gray’s Creek water

The engineering firm for the planned Gray’s Creek water project has said it would require 3 million gallons of water a day, but PWC has said it would cap out at 1.2 million gallons a day.

The Fayetteville-based engineering firm Moorman, Kizer and Reitzel must now come back to determine what the capacity would be with smaller lines providing water to the Gray’s Creek community.

Phase one of the project has been projected at $3 million.

Under the draft agreement, PWC agrees to provide no more than 1.2 million gallons of water a day over a 40-year term to the Gray’s Creek community, where wells have been polluted with per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances known as PFAS, or forever chemicals. Water has been found to have a PFAS substance known as GenX from the Chemours plant off N.C. 87 in Bladen County.

The public water service would be extended to Alderman Road and Gray’s Creek Elementary schools. The Board of Education is allocating $1 million to provide water to the two schools and to help make the project a reality.

In June 2019, County Manager Amy Cannon said, PWC decided it could not justify expanding its services to the area because it did not receive any financial benefits from the project. Bladen and Robeson counties told Cumberland County leaders that they did not have the capacity to deal with such a project.

“The goal has continued to be to serve some level of services to those contaminated by Chemours,” Cannon said. “We talked with Chemours about responsibility. They could not come to terms or (agree to) participation.”

Cumberland is working on estimating the actual number of gallons of water that would be needed to operate the system, Cannon said. “PWC is limited to 1.2 million gallons a day. It has to be designed to fit that 1.2 million a day.”

“This is one of the fastest-growing areas in Cumberland County,’’ board Chairman Glenn Adams said. “How much growth do we have out there?”

County Attorney Rick Moorefield said that would be determined once the project design is revised and completed. “You’ll know when they finish that design,” he added.

“I think we need to know what we need to know,” Adams said. “We need to think of the future growth.”

“We need to know the gallons,” Cannon said.

Moorefield said, “The amount determines what need we have."

"All this is is an agreement by water,” he said, holding up a copy of the proposed bulk water purchase contract between the county and PWC.

“This is the best PWC agreement I’ve seen,” Moorefield told the committee, “but not the best water agreement I’ve seen.”

Commissioner Larry Lancaster said, in this case, they were talking about expensive water to serve the entire Gray’s Creek district.

“PWC is holding all the cards,” Lancaster said. “If capacity exceeds what we require, what are we going to do? We may end up not having capacity. I just want to move forward.”

The contract, Moorefield said, is a substantial change for what PWC wanted. “Most of the document is what PWC is not responsible for the quality of water. The rates and charges are what PWC charges everyone.”

Cumberland County spokeswoman Sally Shutt said the cost of a water system for Gray's Creek was estimated at $64 million in 2020. That's the latest numbers the county has, she said Wednesday.

Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at mfutch@cityviewnc.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.

Cumberland County, Board of Commissioners, Gray's Creek, water, GenX, Chemours, Hope Mills, aquatic center