Residents of Mint Hill’s Ashe Plantation are fed up with paying too much for water they can’t use.
As the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities Department pushes toward getting water to the Goose Creek Basin, Ashe Plantation homeowners are hoping for a silver lining to a dark cloud they say has hovered over them for far too long.
The North Carolina Environmental Management Committee will host a public hearing at the Mint Hill Town Hall on March 4, a Monday, at 7 p.m. Local residents and business owners will have the opportunity to comment on the county’s request to change the current interbasin transfer certificate to allow the Goose Creek Basin to receive CMUD water.
CMUD recently submitted a request to the state asking the officials to lift restrictions that have kept county water out of the Goose Creek Basin for more than 10 years. In 2002, the state’s environmental management committee approved a certificate that allows CMUD to withdraw 33 million gallons per day from the Catawba River Basin and transfer the water to the Yadkin River/Rocky River Basin.
The certificate excludes an area around Mint Hill, particularly the Goose Creek Basin, because of concerns that storm water runoff would have a negative impact on the environment. Environmental advocates also were concerned about the safety of the Carolina Heelsplitter Mussel, a federally-listed endangered species.
Throughout the years, new environmental ordinances have been established to protect the mussel’s habitat and mitigate the effects of storm water runoff in the area.
“Given all the environmental protectors and buffers, we’re basically saying we believe … adequate protection is in place for (the environment),” Barry Sherrin, CMUD’s chief engineer, said.
The news comes as a ray of hope for Ashe Plantation residents, who have been fighting to tap into CMUD water for years. Sharon Decker, the neighborhood’s homeowners association president, has lived in Ashe Plantation for seven years and said she’s endured all kinds of problems related to the neighborhood’s wells.
Decker and other Ashe Plantation residents have fought a long battle with Aqua North Carolina, the private, Pennsylvania-based company that services the subdivision. Residents have seen water running from yellow to dark brown, which corrodes dishwashers, kills hot water heaters, discolors laundry and simply isn’t drinkable, she said.
Decker’s water bill has run as high as $300 a month, even though she limits the amount of water she uses to a bare minimum, she said. She added residents have had to frequently replace hot water heaters and dishwashers because of the poor water quality and are forced to purchase bottled water to drink.
Aqua has been working with the subdivision to clear up the problem, but some residents still aren’t convinced the water is safe to drink, Decker said. To get clear water, residents are forced to replace water filters monthly, she said.
“Right now our water is clear, but what we have to pay to keep it clean … it’s more than a car payment,” Decker said.
Some homeowners have even faced foreclosure because they can’t afford the high water bills and can’t sell their homes because of the water problems.
“People have to know the cost of being on a private company,” she said. “The most important thing is that we get off the private well.”
Decker encourages fellow Ashe Plantation homeowners to attend the March 4 public hearing and voice their concerns.
“We have to prove that we really need that (restriction) lifted,” she said. “This is our last chance. If this doesn’t pass, we’ll never get out of this case – never.”
Sherrin said if the county’s request isn’t met with much opposition and the state’s environmental management committee decides to lift restrictions – which could happen as early as the end of May – Ashe Plantation and other areas in the Goose Creek Basin wouldn’t immediately receive county water. They’ll still have a few more steps to take, he said, but lifting the restrictions removes a major roadblock that’s prevented CMUD water from reaching the basin at all.
“They’ll still have a few hurdles to jump over,” he said. “But for customers requesting water, existing homes and (businesses who) want to develop … we will be able to serve those people now.”