CHAPEL HILL – In the past couple years our community-owned water treatment facility, OWASA, has received several awards and kept water rates the same.
Some of those awards include the Platinum Award for Utility Excellence from the Association of Metropolitan Water and the “Excellence in Water Treatment” award from the Partnership for Safe Water. “(And) one of our most recent operational awards is the Partnership for Safe Water’s Distribution System Directors Award for systems who optimize their drinking water system,” says Mary Darr, OWASA’s director of engineering and planning.
And as OWASA receives awards for their drinking water and utility systems, staff continues to work on improving efficiency. “OWASA has for many years had a philosophy of continuous improvement which means that we are constantly trying to see ways to provide a higher quality service, a more reliable service, and a more efficient service” says OWASA public affairs representative Greg Feller.
That philosophy has enabled OWASA to keep water rates the same for the past two years.
“Some of the things we have done in recent years for efficiency is reducing the work force,” Feller says. “We have about 12 percent fewer employees now than we had in 2004.” (As employees left the company, OWASA evaluated the vacant positions and consolidated work to avoid the need to hire new personnel.)
Feller says OWASA’s newest project is focused in improving efficiency at the Mason Farm Wastewater Treatment Plant.
“There is now a project underway (there) that will increase the energy efficiency of the biological treatment process, and we expect that’s going to involve a 20 percent reduction in electricity use,” he says.
For more information you can click here.http://chapelboro.com/news/non-profit-news/owasa-maintains-water-rates-for-two-years/
CHAPEL HILL - The League of Women Voters of Orange/Durham/Chatham Counties will hold an educational program on Understanding the Affordable Care Act at the Chapel Hill Public Library.
The educational program will provide people with an understanding of the Affordable Care Act and its implementation in North Carolina. The first session will be held on Monday from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and will be free to the public.
The second session will take place on December 4 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Chapel Hill Public Library.
For more information call 919-968-2780.
Carrboro Town Commons will host the Annual Halloween Carnival along with a pumpkin carving contest on October 31.
People wanting to enter the pumpkin carving contest should bring their pre-carved pumpkin to the Carrboro Town Commons between 9:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Citizens will be able to vote on the pumpkins during the Annual Halloween Carnival from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The winner will be announced at 8:15 p.m.
The Carnival will last until 8:30 p.m. and children will be able to make crafts, win prizes, and play carnival games.
For more information click here.
On October 31, OWASA and the American Red Cross will sponsor the annual Halloween blood drive at OWASA from 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The blood drive will be held in the Community room on the lower floor of OWASA’s administrative building. People who come to donate blood will be entered into a drawing for a $200 gift card courtesy of Suburban Propane. For more information click here.http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/understanding-obamacare-halloween-carnival-blood-drive/
LEAD IN: The fun won’t end at the Farmer’s Market in the fall, but the hours will change.
The Chapel Hill Farmer’s Market is still open on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. until noon, but the Tuesday hours are shifting. You can visit the market from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Tuesdays.
And don’t miss out on the Halloween Harvest Festival on Saturday from 8:00 a.m. until noon. Come to show off your Halloween costume, to grub on local vendors’ freshly-made dishes, or to play games. Farmers will even tell you the secrets of their favorite recipes.
For more information about the Chapel Hill Farmer’s Market, click here.
The Orange Water and Sewer Authority has a new General Manager of Operations.
Todd Taylor is a professional engineer, and he just got the job. He is responsible for the drinking water and wastewater treatment plants, water pipe systems, laboratories, and maintenance.
Taylor has 14 years of experience in the engineering and utility fields.
Late Night with Roy is a tradition that attracts hundreds of UNC basketball fans every year. And Chapel Hill Transit has a plan to supplement the crowd.
Shuttles will run every 10 to 15 minutes from the FridayCenter to the Dean Dome Friday night. The increased shuttle operations run from 5:30 p.m. until 45 after the event is over.
Roundtrip rides are $5. A one-way trip will cost you $3.
For more information about the shuttle schedule, click here.http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/news-around-town/
CHAPEL HILL - A study by the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC found that diets rich in amino and omega-3 fatty acids help young people with Type One diabetes. It helps them continue producing insulin for up to two years after their diagnosis.
Researchers specifically looked at leucine, an amino acid found in soy and whole wheat products, as well as nuts, eggs and some meat and dairy. While the diabetics in the study still required insulin doses, researchers said this study points to a reduced risk of diabetes complications later in life.
Researchers at UNC found that preschoolers and preschool-aged children with Autism Spectrum Disorder saw improvements from high-quality early intervention treatment, regardless of treatment model.
The Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute study looked at the various treatment models for children with ASD and found that, as long as it was a comprehensive early program, children improved at largely equal levels.
The study involved 198 three-to-five year old children in public school districts across the country.
OWASA crews replaced a broken water pipe Tuesday on Old Forest Creek Drive.
Part of the road was closed as the repairs went from 3:00 to 10:30 a.m.
The number of customers who were left without water during the repairs was four, according to OWASA.http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/studies-on-diabetes-and-autism-owasa-fixes-pipe/
CHAPEL HILL – Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich says she’s worried that a year and a half of work by the Rogers Road Task Force might be grinding to a halt as the Environmental Protection Agency launches an investigation into claims that the county’s planning department engaged in racial discrimination.
“I’m concerned about it,” says Rich, who, along with Renee Price represents the county on the task force. “I think that we’re going to still move forward with recommendations. I think Chapel Hill and Carrboro can keep moving forward. Orange County on the other hand might have to stop.”
After decades of discussion and dozens of reports, plans, work groups and task forces, elected officials from the towns and county are on the cusp of crafting a cost-sharing plan to extend OWASA sewer service to Rogers Road, the traditionally low-income African-American neighborhood straddling Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County that’s hosted the landfill since 1972.
The sewer project is part of a landfill remediation plan that’s estimated to cost approximately six million dollars.
The Carrboro Aldermen say they’ll chip in nearly a million. The Chapel Hill Town Council wants to explore extending extraterritorial jurisdiction to the neighborhood to make it easier to spend municipal tax dollars on the Rogers Road sewer project. But Orange County Commissioners, who up until now have lead the charge to make amends for the landfill, are keeping quiet.
That’s because the EPA recently declared it has jurisdiction to launch a federal investigation into allegations that the county planning department and OWASA discriminated against the largely African-American community by failing to provide water and sewer service to Rogers Road.
To read the EPA’s letter to the Orange County Planning Department, click here.
Rich says the county commissioners can’t take action on the task force’s recommendations until the investigation is concluded.
“We actually need to be very careful with how we move forward with this,” says Rich. “We know that it could take months, up to a year or more for this investigation to be complete.”
At stake could be a federal grant of $1.3 million awarded to bring sewer service to the Efland and Buckhorn communities in western Orange County.
The complaint filed by the Rogers Eubanks Neighborhood Association, or RENA, alleges that the county’s failure to apply for similar grants to fund the Rogers Road sewer extension amounts to intentional discrimination.
The Efland-Buckhorn sewer grant was awarded to the county in December 2010. At that time, there was not a concerted effort underway by the towns and county to bring sewer service to Rogers Road. The current task force didn’t get its start until 2012, when the county commissioners’ decision to close the landfill spurred action on a remediation plan.
The EPA’s announcement that it was launching the investigation this June took many by surprise, including those who originally filed the complaint against the county in 2007. That complaint was expanded in 2011, following the allocation of the Efland-Buckhorn grant money.
Up until recently, Mark Dorosin was the lead attorney representing RENA. He says the federal agency took so long to respond to the allegations that RENA leaders thought the complaint had been abandoned.
“The EPA complaint was just sort of out there for a long time without any sort of information or feedback about what was happening,” says Dorosin. “They collected some information and then folks just didn’t hear anything.”
***Listen to the full account of the history of RENA’s complaint***
In the meantime, Dorosin was elected to the Orange County Board of Commissioners, one of the three local governments responsible for funding the sewer extension.
At the board’s last meeting in June, Dorosin put forward a resolution pledging the county to provide funding for the yet-to-be determined sewer plan.
The motion failed in a 5-2 vote, in part because other commissioners were wary of taking action during the on-going investigation. Speaking at that June meeting, Commissioner Alice Gordon argued against the resolution.
“The county attorney has advised the commissioners to exercise significant restraint when authorizing expenditures in this area,” warned Gordon. “I think we’re in a much better position if we just let [the task force] go forward.”
Since then, Dorosin says he’s decided to recuse himself from deliberations that involve the EPA’s investigation. He says he’s also stepped away from his role as RENA’s legal counsel.
“I have now withdrawn as legal representative of RENA with regards to that complaint, because obviously I would have a conflict representing RENA and being on the county commission,” says Dorosin. “I’ve also recused myself from the commission on any discussion or matters or any meetings related to that, so there can’t be any concerns about actual or potential conflicts of interest.”
But Dorosin hopes the work of the current Rogers Road task force can continue.
“It is good public policy for us provide those promised services and benefits to that community,” says Dorosin. “I hope that I can continue to be an advocate for that. I think it is not just in the best interests of Rogers Road, it is in the best interests of all Orange County that we honor those commitments and address the harms and impacts that that community has suffered.”
The task force is set to meet on Wednesday. It’s the next to the last meeting of the group, and elected officials are hoping to come up with solid recommendations to take back to each governing body in the fall.
While Chapel Hill and Carrboro may be ready to take action after the summer break, Orange County leaders could have their hands tied for the foreseeable future.
Penny Rich has served on the task force first as a Chapel Hill Town Council member and now as a county commissioner. She says she also wants to make sure that the remediation efforts don’t lose momentum while the EPA conducts its investigation.
“We can talk and talk and talk, but its not until we take action that it feels like it is really happening. My hope is that the investigation goes quickly and we can move forward with some action to help the neighborhood that has not been helped for so many years.”
The task force meets at 4:00 p.m. Wednesday July 18 at the Solid Waste Administration Center on Eubanks Road.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/epa-investigation-could-be-a-roadblock-to-rogers-road-remediation/
Neighbors in rural Bingham Township are asking tough questions about the Mountain to Sea Trail (MST). Sounds NIMBY? Maybe. Until you take a closer look.
Last week, 200 residents showed up at a county Open House – mostly to express concerns about the county’s plan for the Mountain-to-Sea Trail (MST). Until then, information was not forthcoming about plans for the trail. Bingham homeowners found survey markings and hikers on or near their land and have been asking questions for over a year.
Let’s not forget that this is the community that stopped OWASA from logging the reservoir, UNC from building an airport, and the county from siting a waste facility. We’re still dealing with sewage sludge and a mismatch of services designed for urban neighbors, and many are still holding a grudge over the loss of the thousands of acres of farmland for Cane Creek Reservoir. Bingham has no schools, parks or other amenities that might serve our families. Residents live on high alert, and when we see surveyors or officials in the woods, we know something’s up – and it’s probably not good.
Honestly, most of the trail looks promising with segments that run short distances to connect public green spaces including the Eno River State Park, Occanecchi Speedway/Ayr Mount and the Town of Hillsborough. The hosting communities are dense and welcome the trail as a neighbor – as a preferred alternative to more houses.
The Bingham situation is different. There are no public green spaces in this largely rural community marked with beautiful farms that are centuries old. Homes are remotely placed and neighbors meet up for walks in the woods or at the local dump. Community watch groups are active and, at the suggestion of the sheriff, everyone is on the lookout for unfamiliar cars or other suspicious activity.
So when the neighbors found surveyors on or near their land, they started asking questions. The answers did little to ease growing suspicion, especially among neighbors who live near Cane Creek Reservoir. Since OWASA’s gates are locked, neighbors are particularly concerned that users will access to the trail through private communities – communities that already deal with littering from trespassers who illegally access OWASA’s land.
If OWASA’s land at Cane Creek Reservoir were turned into a public parkland, with controlled access through OWASA’s gates, attitudes might change. That’s how it works at Eno River State Park, Ayr Mount, and other green spaces along the trail. Don’t Bingham residents deserve the same safety features in their community?
One more point: OWASA land is beautiful – but it’s a long distance to the nearest towns (HIllsborough and Saxapahaw). In fact, Bingham communities are expected to host the longest section of the MST- all of it impacting private property owners. So Bingham neighbors are being asked to host long-distance hikers without first discussing green spaces that serve the local community.
Clearly, the discussion of the MST is premature. If Bingham neighbors sound NIMBY, maybe they have a point.http://chapelboro.com/columns/rural-community-spotlight/rural-neighbors-question-mountain-to-sea-trail/