Environment

After 24 years, Rougemont residents get permanent source of clean drinking water

water-1397189752ktwThe taps in Rougemont ran with clean water today — water from a new community well that replaces the bottles and carbon filters that residents had relied on for nearly 25 years.

The NC Department of Environmental Quality and the EPA announced today that 40 homes will now be connected to the new source, after those residents’ private drinking water wells had become contaminated by chemicals leaking from underground storage tanks at old gas stations. Since 1992, environmental officials had discovered four plumes of pollution that had spread from those former stations and contaminated the groundwater.

Meanwhile, the state environmental agency had secured funding to install replacement wells, supply residents with bottled water and install systems that used carbon filters to prevent contaminated water from entering homes.

But without permanent water, Drew Cummings, Durham County assistant manager, told county commissioners in 2012, the viability of the town was at risk:

The groundwater pollution problem in the heart of Rougemont depresses property values of current residents there, but the groundwater pollution also inhibits any further residential or commercial development which would need to be served by new wells (which cannot get permitted in the areas of petrochemical groundwater pollution. Rougemont residents believe that the lack of clean well water near downtown has prevented them from attracting basic commercial institutions that they feel would greatly enhance the quality of life there.

Cummings also outlined the difficulties in finding an affordable permanent solution for the residents of this rural community. Extending Roxboro’s water line more than three miles was nixed because of cost, about $2.7 million. Plus, residents would have had to pay double the standard water rates levied by Roxboro, which could have decreased the number of voluntary connections to the line. (City of Durham lines were even farther away — six to nine miles.

At the time, there were no Drinking Water Revolving Fund grants available, nor was there any reliable federal money.

Last year, with $2.6 million, paid for by the county and various federal and state funds and grants, construction began on the new system. And clean water began flowing today.

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