Castle Hayne hearing tonight

Published 8:26 pm Monday, July 29, 2013

The public is invited to weigh in tonight at a hearing about a mining company’s petition to withdraw up to 12,000,000 gallons of water a day from Castle Hayne Aquifer.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the Building 8 auditorium of Beaufort County Community College. However, doors open at 5 p.m. to allow registration for those who like to speak.

On the heels of the N.C. Division of Water Quality issuing a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit to Martin Marietta Aggregates, the company proposing to build a 649-acre pit-mine near the Beaufort-Craven county line, DWQ is moving through another permitting process: that of a Central Coastal Plan Capacity Use Area Water Withdrawal Permit. The NPDES permit issued last Wednesday governs the discharge of 9 to 12 million gallons of water per day used in the mining process to be dumped into the headwaters of Blounts Creek. The CCPCUA permit oversees the act of withdrawing up to 12 million gpd from the Castle Hayne Aquifer, a process that could cause problems for some Beaufort County homeowners who rely on wells.

Bob Boulden, owner of Miss Bea Charters out of Chocowinity, is one of the south side of the river residents signed up to speak tonight. As a retired environmental engineer, he has many concerns about the possibility of the company removing that much water from the aquifer on a daily basis: water-table levels dropping to points beyond the reach of existing wells and geothermal heating/heat pump systems; sinkholes, salt-water intrusion into aquifer among them.

The potential cost of losing a well hasn’t been addressed, Boulden said. However, a requirement for the CCPCUA permit is for Martin Marietta to have a response plan, in which well owners would be compensated if a suddenly non-working well can be directly linked to Martin Marietta’s mining activities by one of three methods: rehabilitation or repair of the existing water supply well, drilling of a new water supply well of the same diameter, or by connecting the residence to a public water supply — all at Martin Marietta’s expense.

But Boulden points out that for many people in the area with well, water costs only as much as it costs to “spin that well pump.”

“The base rate out here is $27.84 a month,” Boulden said. “They may pay to hook them up (to the county water supply), but who’s going to pay for them to have county water forever?”

Pamlico-Tar River Foundation Executive Director Harrison Marks, along with PTRF riverkeeper Heather Jacobs Deck, will also be in attendance.

“I think we know that to withdraw that much more water from the Castle Hayne, will certainly have an impact on wells,” Marks said.

Marks said PTRF is concerned about what seems to be a change in philosophy on the part of government agencies created to protect the environment.

“It would appear to us that the impetus is to approve whatever the mine wants to do, as opposed to considering the impact on our waterways and the effect on our citizens,” Marks said.