OWASA Warns of Water Discoloration Downtown Chapel Hill

Residents and businesses in downtown Chapel Hill may notice discolored water Monday and Tuesday due to maintenance work being carried out by Orange Water and Sewer Authority.

OWASA officials say customers can clear the discoloration by running cold water for five to 10 minutes. If the water does not clear up, you are asked to contact OWASA at (919) 968-4421.

OWASA is also asking customers to make sure that the water is clear before doing laundry or other activities using the discolored water. Officials say the discoloration may also appear in ice from ice makers.

OWASA says the discolored water is safe to use when watering plants.

The maintenance causing the discoloration involves releasing water from fire hydrants to remove sediment which can accumulate in the water pipes, according to OWASA. The water release helps keep water clear in normal condition.


The Importance of the Mountains to Sea Trail

In August, the board of the Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) voted to allow the Mountains to Sea Trail to be built along its Cane Creek Reservoir.

As part of that decision, OWASA outlined conditions to guide planning and construction of the trail so that it protects water quality, minimizes risk, and respects the privacy of neighboring land owners.

This vote was a huge step forward for the part of the Mountains to Sea Trail that will link Saxapahaw to Hillsborough on its 1,150 mile route from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks.  Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail worked with OWASA and Orange County to get to this point.  The OWASA staff did impressive work to draft the conditions and the OWASA board listened carefully and responded to almost 100 written and in-person comments.

Orange County has now been charged with developing a trail route that meets the conditions that are laid out by OWASA and Mountains to Sea Trail friends and volunteers will participate as needed.

They are places where the land owned by OWASA are very narrow and we will need help from neighboring land owners willing to allow the trail to cross their land.  We will also need to identify trail heads for public access.

As Executive Director of Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail, I found the most wonderful part of this experience to be hearing people talk about what the trail would mean to them.  It reaffirms to me how much this narrow pathway across North Carolina matters.  It represents all of the best of North Carolina.

— Kate Dixon, Executive Director: Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail


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2,300 Gallons of Wastewater Overflow in Chapel Hill

About 2,300 gallons of untreated wastewater overflowed on Eastowne Drive on Wednesday, according to Orange Water and Sewer Authority.

OWASA officials say crews responded to the overflow near Providence Road and found the wastewater coming from a sewer on Eastowne. The overflow occurred because a contractor damaged the sewer, according to OWASA. The spill occurred in an area that drains to Booker Creek.

The OWASA crew flushed the spill area with water and OWASA staff provided information about the overflow to the North Carolina Division of Water Resources, according to a release. The state division is now reviewing the matter.


Expansion of OWASA Construction Hours May Impact Morning Commutes

Construction work will be closing through traffic on East Rosemary Street beginning Wednesday morning earlier than normally scheduled.

Officials with Orange Water and Sewer Authority say contractor work will begin at seven o’clock Wednesday morning and will run until five o’clock in the evening. That schedule will be replicated on Thursday.

The contractor will resume normal work hours on Friday with work occurring from nine o’clock in the morning until four in the afternoon.

The water line project may be completed in the spring of 2017, but weather and other factors may delay the work between now and then.

The project also included work on portions of Hillsborough and Henderson Streets to “maintain reliable water service including water for fire protection when needed,” according to a release.


Mountains To Sea Trail Gets Tentative Approval to Cross OWASA Land

The OWASA Board of Directors reaffirmed its commitment to the Mountains-to-Sea Trail by tentatively approving the use of its land for the trail in a meeting Thursday night.

“We’re here to set some conditions that the county has to consider as they go through the detailed planning for the trail,” said board member David Moreau. “There are a lot of valid concerns that have been expressed by neighbors.”

Before the trail uses OWASA land in Orange County, the board must decide that the trail meets three conditions.

It must protect water quality in the Cane Creek Reservoir, use no OWASA funds for the trail and mitigate risks associated with hikers using OWASA property.

To help the county meet these three broader conditions, the board passed 46 additional conditions that addressed issues such as the use of alcohol on the trail and land management.

“If the county can develop a trail that meets the conditions, it would be brought back to the board to review,” said OWASA planning and development manager Ruth Rouse. “If it meets those conditions the intention is that the board would approve the trail on our land.”

Before approval of the conditions, the board received public comment from residents on both sides of the issue.

Those who wanted to see the trail come to Orange County praised the increased access to nature.

Those who opposed, like John Silva, said the trail could lead to increased crime and potential hazards like forest fires.

“Who will know if a large group is partying off the beautiful vistas in this segment,” he said. “Who will stop individuals from making a campfire? No one. You can set all these conditions, but you can’t enforce them.”

Orange County Parks and Recreation director David Stancil said his department reached out to neighboring counties with the Mountains-to-Sea Trail to learn about their experiences with these issues.

He said while there were fires in these counties, there were very few along trails.

He also discussed the issue of crime.

“When they’ve seen issues it’s break-ins to vehicles that are parked at areas where people access trails,” Stancil said. “That is much more likely to occur than an incident along the trails in the experience that they’ve had.”

Once complete, the 1,000-mile trail will stretch from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks, giving North Carolinians an opportunity to hike across the entire state.


OWASA Board to Discuss Mountains to Sea Trail Thursday

The OWASA Board will hold a meeting Thursday to discuss previous comments and new conditions about the potential Mountains to Sea Trail utilizing OWASA property.

At the previous meeting in July, residents were concerned with the preservation of the Cane Creek water reservoir, fire safety on the trail and proximity to the neighboring houses.

As planned at the last meeting, board members have further discussed conditions of the trail for Orange County but welcome public comment to the new conditions presented.

In a release about the meeting, OWASA says they plan to discuss their plan to protect the Cane Creek Reservoir.

Although this process may take years to finish, the partnership of the Mountains to Sea Trail staff and Orange County Department of Agriculture plan to continue to engage with the community and work with land owners to make the trail the best fit for the area.

Read More:  Mountains to Sea Trail Draws Concern from Orange County Citizens

If you would like to be a part of the discussion, the OWASA Board meeting is open to the public tonight at 7 p.m. in the Council Chamber at the Chapel Hill Town Hall.

The meeting will also be televised on local government cable channel 18.


OWASA Hosting Blood Drive Wednesday

Orange Water and Sewer Authority is hosting a blood drive on Wednesday at the OWASA administration building.

The blood drive is scheduled to be held in the community room at OWASA’s 400 Jones Ferry Road location.

OWASA officials say the summer time can be a difficult time for the American Red Cross as blood donations go down while regular donors postpone giving blood due to vacation plans and other summer activities.

“Hospital patients don’t get a summer holiday from needing blood,” said Krystal Overmyer, communications manager for the Carolinas Blood Services Region. “We invite community members to spend about an hour with us to address this seasonal challenge and help save patient lives.”

Donors must be in general good health, have photo identification, weigh at least 110 pounds and be 17 years old. Prospective donors who are 16 years old can give with parental consent.

The blood drive is scheduled to run from 10 o’clock until 2:30 Wednesday afternoon.


OWASA Pipe Replacement Closing Portion of East Rosemary Street

Replacement of a water pipe is causing East Rosemary Street to be closed to through traffic between Hillsborough and Henderson Streets.

The roadway will be closed from nine o’clock in the morning until four o’clock in the afternoon on weekdays beginning Monday.

Officials say the project “may be completed in the spring of 2017, but the timetable is subject to change due to weather and other factors.”

Driveway access along the closed portion of the roadway could be impacted when contractors are installing a pipe directly in front of a driveway. Officials say the contractor will notify those who will be affected in advance.

Drivers using the route for through traffic are asked to use alternative routes until the work is completed.

More information on the project is available at OWASA’s website.


Mountains to Sea Trail Draws Concern from Orange County Citizens

Many community members in Orange County brought concern to the last OWASA Board meeting regarding the proposed route for the Mountains to Sea Trail.

The trail could possibly go through OWASA property and some community member’s backyards.

The Mountains to Sea Trail is 1150 miles long beginning in the Great Smokey Mountains and ending in Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks. The trail runs through 37 counties and 41 towns where you will hike through wildlife and historical sites.

As of right now, 470 miles of the trail is still on road ways, but it is in the process of converting to off-road pathways. The portion of the trail through southwestern Orange County going over the Cane Creek Reservoir is what has brought concern to the community.

John Silva created a petition against the proposed area.

“When this project was first brought up three years ago, there was active resistance from members of the Cane Creek Watershed communities, and Mount Mitchell, Thunder Mountain, Apple Mill and Teer Roads. There are many reasons for this opposition, but I think one of the most prominent reasons to consider is OWASA is given the responsibility of protecting this water shed,” Silva said. “That water is provided to Chapel Hill, Carrboro, the University of North Carolina, the hospital, the children’s hospital, the cancer center, the many schools in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area, the businesses and the residents in that area.”

Other concerns that came from the community and the board included fire safety on the trail and proximity to the neighboring houses. Community member Scott Zimmerman supports the trail.

“North Carolina is a beautiful state. From the coast to the mountains, we have a lot to offer that is unique to the United States. And the trail tries to hit those beautiful places,” Zimmerman said. “We have some of the most beautiful places here in this county, and you are the owners of a part of that. It’s a beautiful piece of property, and [it’s a] shame that it could only be enjoyed by those who live adjacent to it.”

The Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail have partnered with the Orange County Department of Agriculture throughout this process. Department director David Stancil said the first step in their process is to listen to the community.

“We’ve heard from many people today about different ideas, comments and concerns. Then eventually get to the point where we can map a route or routes. It may be that there is no one route, and there may be places where there will be multiple routes that need to be identified. And then complete a plan and move on to construction,” Stancil said.

Stancil said they want to interact with the public on this plan.

“This process is really designed to try and engage and solicit community input. The county does not have any plans to take any land for the Mountains to Sea Trail. The process that’s envisioned is to work with landowners along the route and to identify a series of negotiations that may take many years,” Stancil said.

OWASA has not stated whether they are for or against the sea trail, but they did say they would like to provide specific conditions to the trail as it may pertain to their property.

OWASA board members did not vote on specific conditions that the trail will have to abide by. They have chosen to further discuss the conditions they would like to put into place and plan to bring them to the community at their next meeting on August 25.

Proposed Mountain to Sea Trail route. Photo via OWASA.

Proposed Mountains to Sea Trail route. Photo via OWASA.


OWASA Replacing Water Pipe on Rosemary Street

If you drive on West Rosemary Street regularly, expect some traffic delays for the next two days.

Orange Water and Sewage Authority plan to do water pipe replacement work starting Tuesday and continuing into Wednesday.

The construction will close one lane on West Rosemary Street from nine o’clock in the morning until four o’clock in the afternoon.

One lane will remain open for traffic, but OWASA encourages drivers to take an alternative route during the time of construction.

Officials say the purpose of the water pipe replacement is to maintain reliable water services to those in the area.