Local News

Poultry Plants Turn to Jordan Lake for Water

Posted October 9, 2007 2:38 p.m. EDT
Updated October 9, 2007 6:58 p.m. EDT

— Two poultry processing plants began pumping water from Jordan Lake this week because of Siler City's strict water consumption limits, which went into effect Monday.

The Rocky River Reservoir, which supplies water to the town, is down 12½ feet from normal levels because of the statewide drought, and it could run dry in 75 days with no rain in the meantime. To cope with dwindling water supplies, Siler City is requiring each water customer to cut usage in half.

That has reduced water allocations to the Townsend and Pilgrim's Pride poultry processing plants, which are permitted under normal conditions to use up to 800,000 gallons of water each per day.

“They had already cut back on their water usage to help conserve, but they still need more water than we can supply right now,” Siler City Town Manager Joel Brower said in a statement. “They have made up some of the difference thus far by getting some water from Pittsboro, Ramseur and Robbins.”

Townsend began hauling water Tuesday, and Pilgrim’s Pride is expected to begin hauling water Wednesday.

The companies are sending trucks to Jordan Lake to pump 200,000 gallons of water a day or more to haul back to the plants.

“This is an important collaboration because workers at the plants, poultry farmers and many others aspects of our local economy would be affected," Carl Thompson, chairman of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, said in the statement. "If these plants have to cut back operations substantially, it has a negative ripple effect throughout the entire region.”

The state Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance announced Tuesday that staff would be available to provide free technical assistance to businesses, industries, government agencies and institutions hoping to save money if they are asked to conserve water.

The state agency offers industrial water conservation workshops to provide the skills and tools to design and implement a water conservation program and on-site assessments that focus on identifying cost-saving options to reduce water use.

The poultry plants also have implemented four-day work weeks to try to conserve water, Brower said.

"I feel like we're going to get help from everyone," he said.

Industrial customers account for 60 to 70 percent of Siler City's daily water consumption, and Brower said their water meters are being monitored for compliance with the new water restrictions. If businesses don't cut back, they face a $500 fine, and they could have their water turned off after three citations.

But he said town officials don't plan on conducting house-by-house checks to ensure residential water customers are cutting their usage by the required 50 percent. Rather, they plan to watch for larger-than-expected water bills to determine if people aren't adhering to the restrictions, he said.

Resident Ed Thain said he lets dishes pile up in his sink, takes shorter showers and let his garden wither in order to cut his water use.

"We're committed to saving water and riding the thing out. We know it's going to end," Thain said.