By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: June 7, 2019 | 11:02 a.m.
PRINCE GEORGE – Local leaders and residents of the Jordan on the James subdivision are expected to receive an update on ongoing repairs to part of the county’s water system during a special meeting on June 10.
In a statement, county officials confirmed a special called meeting is scheduled for Monday at 6:30 p.m. inside the county administration building’s board room with the goal of addressing “ongoing water concerns at the Jordan on the James subdivision.”
Supervisors are expected to be on hand for the meeting, along with county utilities director Frank Haltom, who has been the lead on the ongoing water issues at the Beechwood Manor reservoir after a tree crashed into a water storage building during a severe thunderstorm in May, causing significant damage to the wood frame roof of the building and further extending water use restrictions that were already in place as the water storage building was in the midst of rehabilitation.
According to Haltom, the Beechwood Manor, Eagle Preserve, and the Jordan on the James subdivisions have been under use restrictions since April as county utility crews performed maintenance on the water storage building. Before the tree crashed into the building, the restrictions were slated to end last month.
Now, with supervisors approving a full replacement of the roof with a more durable metal structure and needing to work closely with the Virginia Department of Health in bringing the drinking water reservoir back online, which requires various procedures, such as sanitizing the building after the roof is installed and testing the water before it can resume operations, the timetable for restrictions to end is roughly 6 to 8 weeks, Haltom told county leaders in a late-May update to the board.
The restrictions, which remain in place prohibit the “sprinkling, watering or irrigation of new and established lawns,” washing cars, including commercial vehicles, and “the outdoor surfaces of all buildings and structures, sidewalks, and driveways,” and “filling or cleaning … swimming, wading pools, and decorative fountains.” Those found violating the restriction face a $100 fine and, “in a case of a continuing violation, each day’s continuance thereof shall be deemed a separate and distinct offense with fines escalating.”
Even with the restrictions and risk of financial penalties, Haltom confirmed that they are still seeing increased usage, particularly in the Jordan on the James subdivision and that usage places all three neighborhoods – Jordan on the James, Beechwood Manor, and Eagle Preserve – at risk of completely losing water as the only pump currently serving the communities is working nearly 24 hours a day to provide water to that area, increasing the risk of a pump failure.
“We only have one well serving approximately 1,000 people or roughly 430 connections,” Haltom said in May. “We still have folks who are ignoring water restrictions, pushing that well pump to its capacity and I just want people to be aware that, if that well goes, there will be no water to those 1,000 people, those 430 homes.”
In an interview this week ahead of Monday’s meeting, Haltom said they are still seeing irrigation take place, noting they have found roughly 15 occurrences at nearly a dozen different homes, with some of those occurrences being repeat offenses. He went on to say, despite their efforts to have utility workers out in the early morning hours as the sun rises, some appear to be trying to dodge those workers looking for use violations by performing the irrigation earlier in the morning or closer to mid-day, when they believe workers may not be in the area.
Even with that, Haltom said their office can usually tell when those activities begin as their well monitoring applications show when the pump is being activated to bring water levels back up as that increased use draws the water level down.
Haltom explained, if that pump were to fail from the increased use, it could result in several days without water in the area, which is why they are stressing the importance of only using water for domestic tasks in those communities, such as showering and washing clothes, and not for irrigation, washing cars, or filling swimming pools, as detailed in the restrictions.
“While it is running all day, it is building up heat and those bearings could fail at any time,” he said in May. “If people don’t try to curtail their use of water, specifically irrigation, because we know it is occurring, that well could burn up and people would be out of water for at least a few days until we can get that replaced.”
The second part of the special called meeting notice mentioned concerns about discoloration in the water, which has been an ongoing issue in the Jordan on the James subdivision for a number of years. This week, Haltom explained that a change in the placement of filters prior to his arrival to the county as its utilities director effected how iron was filtered from the water. Since that time, he said they have adjusted the placement of those filters.
“What we have learned is, most likely, there is some build-up of brown sediment caused by that iron in the lines,” he detailed. “Now that we are still using the same water, every now and then, as you have that water demand, it pulls up some of that sediment into the system. So as we flush, we may make that situation worse where that sediment is. It is only a handful of areas where they are at the end of lines… where there is high demand, we don’t really have that issue but, where there is low demand is where you will have that sediment in there.”
The solution to that issue, according to Haltom, is a significant amount of flushing of those lines, which can’t be done until the reservoir is repaired. He stressed, despite the color, the water is safe.
“The system is running the way it is supposed to be running,” he said. “Yes, the water is brown but, it is safe to drink,” adding he is unsure if it stains clothes and he hasn’t heard any reports of that, but he said “it does leave a ring around your bathtub if you leave it there for a long time and don’t drain it immediately.”
The special meeting is open to the public and will start at 6:30 p.m. on June 10.