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State Orders Kinston Not to Add New Sewage Customers

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KINSTON — One of the state's worst waste spill offenders will have its hands tied, until it can get its act together.Officials with the North Carolina Division of Water Quality say, starting in July, Kinston will no longer be allowed to offer sewer service to new customers.

Last fall, Kinston received the largest fine ever levied by the state for a city sewage spill. A couple of months and a couple of spills later, the fear of fines apparently isn't working. State leaders hope a moratorium on new customers will force Kinston to act quickly.

It's one of the worst sewer problems state water quality inspectors have ever seen. Partially treated sewage is spread over nine acres of wetlands next to the Neuse River, and it all came from one of Kinston's wastewater treatment plants.

"Our plant was being overwhelmed, but none of us knew the extent of it until after the river waters receded and we got out there an site and said good grief this is a real mess," said Ernie Seneca of N.C. Water Quality.

Now, the state is coming down hard on Kinston. Starting in July, the moratorium will go into effect, prohibiting the city from granting any new sewer hookups. The state says Kinston has a variety of problems, including underground pipes that pre-date the Depression.

The bottom line is that Kinston will have to spend millions to get its house in order, and it could cost the region in other ways as well.

Without any new sewage hookups, it could be difficult to attract new companies to the Global Transpark, which is the focus of the region's job creation efforts. The state says there will be some latitude in how it enforces the moratorium.

Kinston's mayor says he regrets the state will impose this restriction, adding though, that the move simply reaffirms the city's contention that changes must be made.

The state still hasn't figured out how it's going to clean up the sewage-polluted wetlands. The State Bureau of Investigation and the attorney general's office are investigating whether any criminal activity may have caused this this mess.

Kinston blames some of its sewage problems to water releases at the Falls Lake Dam in Raleigh. The Army Corps of Engineers manages the reservoir, and has agreed to meet with Kinston to see what it can do to bring some relief to the area.

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Len Besthoff, Reporter
Ron Pittman, Photographer
MJ Ainsley, Web Editor

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