Local News

Water company could be drying up private wells

Posted October 20, 2010 5:02 p.m. EDT
Updated October 20, 2010 7:52 p.m. EDT

— A public water company might be contributing to dropping water levels in private wells that are going dry in a north Raleigh neighborhood, according to preliminary data collected by Wake County environmental inspectors.

Four of nine private wells serving homes along Norwood Oaks Drive have gone dry, leaving residents without any water.

"I don't have a well. I have a hole in the ground," resident Mark Finnicum said.

Finnicum said the lack of water service makes everyday chores – changing diapers and washing hands – into a worry.

"The kids spill the dog's water bowl, (and) I cringe because I know I have to fill the water back up from somewhere," he said.

Other neighbors said it's likely just a matter of time before their wells go dry, too.

"We're at the lowest level we've ever seen," resident George Kavelak said.

Wake County officials have started investigating to determine why the water table has dropped. They said Wednesday that preliminary data points to two of three large community wells that Aqua North Carolina has within 2,000 feet of the affected area.

"We haven't physically confirmed that they're related. We do see a pattern to suggest they're related," Wake County Environmental Services Director Tommy Esqueda said.

County officials said in late September that a large pumping source is drawing on the private wells between midnight and noon every day, a pattern that's apparently consistent with utility companies. Inspectors requested information about Aqua's nearby pumping stations part of an investigation into well interference.

Tom Roberts, president of Aqua North Carolina, said he could neither "confirm or deny" the county's preliminary data.

"We are one of many impacts to the groundwater levels in the Wake County area," he said.

Roberts said he is sympathetic to the homeowners' concerns but he is focused on serving his thousands of paying customers in Wake County. He said the situation is about supply and demand.

For now, the county's hands are tied. Esqueda said that the process to force any action could take six to nine months.

Well owner Linda Dunnivan said she hopes the situation gets solved before then. Her well went dry this weekend, and she's had to drive 10 miles to a laundromat twice a week.

"I have to think I've got to do this for nine months," Dunnivan said. "I have no water, and it's very frustrating."

Roberts suggested that concerned well owners could become Aqua customers. Residents, though, didn't take kindly to the proposal.

"For us to now have to pay them, it's not right," Finnicum said. "They're squashing us."