JONESVILLE — “Virginia, are you drinking Jonesville water?” That was the question Virginia Wagoner’s doctor asked her during one of her appointments.
During Jonesville’s Town Council meeting on Monday, many residents commented on the sickly condition of the town’s water and the rising water and sewage rates.
“The water is terrible,” said Barbara Gentry of the Briarwood Apartment complex. “Flush the commode sometimes and it smell like a sewage. Can’t cook with it. Don’t drink it. Washed my hair with it one time and my hair come back looking like a Brillo pad. Every time you turn around the water’s going up, the sewage is going up and most of us over at the apartments are living on social security.”
Many residents have tried to fix these problems on their own, replacing hot water heaters and pipelines only to have zero success in finding a solution.
“I’ve lived in this town since 1997,” said resident Kevin Krantz. “At the time I bought my residence in Arlington my water bill was $14 a month. I was on well water and then switched to city water and it was $14 a month. My water bill now is $140 a month. Each year I see a little hike in the price. And of course, within a month after that, there’s another rise along with sewer rate increase. The water is not drinkable. I’ve replaced my hot water heater three times in 15 years. I’ve replaced all piping in my home because it has rotted. Water rate increases are ridiculous. We don’t need rate increases; we need clean drinkable water. I’m currently buying my water at Walmart in five gallon bottles because I will not drink the stuff coming out of the tap.”
Jonesville has about 30 miles of water lines underground and some of them, according to Town Manager Scott Buffkin, have been around since the late 1940s.
Mayor Gene Pardue believes that a lot of problems may be a result of heavy usage and water flow through the lines. He believes that there are many contributing factors to the problem. Some of the older lines may need to be replaced.
“We do have an older water distribution system,” said Buffkin. “Some of those lines have been in the ground for 50 to 60 years and some of them are built with old galvanized metal that have built up corrosion and rust over the years so people see discolored water. The water is not muddy. The water that leaves the water plant is very pure, but the distribution system is rusty so the water picks it up through the flow. Many of the older areas of town, such as Mineral Springs, have been targeted in the past for repairs, but we’ve been unsuccessful in getting funds and our town does not have the funds to make those repairs which could be well over $1 million.”
Tim Collins, the water resource director of Jonesville, has stated that a lot has been going on in the past month to month and a half. They have fixed four major leaks in the lines and have cut back on water loss. He stated that if anyone has complaints, they will work hard to find solutions to the problems and also asks for documentation on these issues. The Water Resources Department is working to address problematic locations and is flushing lines.
“We’ve started checking chlorine residual which we do every week to make sure there’s enough chlorine to do the job,” said Collins. “We deal with customers all the time. We work to treat people nice and with courtesy. The water in the town is fine. All our tests are perfect. All we can do is keep our water fresh in our lines by flushing and when we receive a customer complaint, we do our best to solve that problem. We do the best we can and sometimes we don’t always win. It costs money to do everything.”
Pardue said the town water is safe to drink as it is connected to the town’s municipal source. The water is aesthetically unpleasing, but it’s not unsafe to consume.
“Collins and the water departments work very hard to make sure that the water leaving the plant is meeting the same requirements that any other public water system in this states needs,” said Pardue. “We have applied in the last six years three times for block grants to help replace some of those lines. So far we have not been successful, unfortunately, in obtaining that grant money and we’ve tried to pull grants specifically so we would not have to increase rates.”
The town will be applying again for grant funds which Buffkin hopes to receive this year.
“It’s a competitive process all across the state of North Carolina,” said Buffkin. “There may be other areas in the state that are in worst financial or physical shape than we are. We certainly hope to get grants soon so we can replace our older lines.”
Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.