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Water service should go uninterrupted in storm, county, towns say

By Allen Turner, The News Reporter

County and municipal government officials in Columbus County are preparing to keep water, and in some cases, sewer service uninterrupted during Hurricane Dorian.

Columbus County Public Utilities Director Harold Nobles expects to be able to maintain water service to customers during Dorian, just as he was able to do with Hurricane Florence last year and Hurricane Matthew three years ago.

“Right now, all we can do is make sure our generators fire up and are full of fuel and making sure we’ve got plenty of chlorine,” Nobles said Monday. Noble has chlorine, which is used to treat water, on hand, but expects delivery of even more in the next couple of days. All but two of the county’s seven water wells have generators, so water service is not expected to be lost even if electrical power goes out.

The story is much the same in Whiteville, where water and sewer service went uninterrupted during the two previous hurricanes.

“We are monitoring things and just waiting to see what Dorian is going to do,” City Manager Darren Currie said. “Right now, we’re just kind of watching it.”

Currie says that all city employees know that if the storm does hit here, “It will be all hands on deck.”

He expected to have a meeting of all city employees either Monday afternoon or first thing Tuesday morning to finalize plans as much as possible.

Currie said that five of the city’s water wells have generators and there is ample generator power at the sewer plant, police department and fire department. At the new City Hall, there is a generator that will run about half the facility.

“At the moment, we’re just doing normal things such as topping off fuel tanks and things like that. Everything will probably ramp up tomorrow. Once the storm starts that turn, we’ll have a better idea. Right now, it’s a wait and see thing,” Currie said Monday.

Interim Town Manager Pat Garrell in Chadbourn voiced the same thing.

“We’re just waiting to see what the storm does,” she said Monday. All three of the town’s water wells and its sewer plant have adequate generator capacity and, as with Florence and Matthew, she doesn’t expect a disruption in water and sewer service. “All of our generators were serviced three weeks ago and we’ll be testing them tomorrow (Tuesday) just to be sure,” Garrell said.

In Fair Bluff, Mayor Billy Hammond said that all of the town’s vehicles and generators have been topped off with fuel. “That’s all we can do right now. We’re just watching to see what will happen.” Fair Bluff has only one operational water well, the second having been destroyed in a previous hurricane. It is equipped with a generator.

Tabor City Town Manager Al Leonard is away on a family vacation, ironically enough, to the panhandle of Florida. His wife, Suzette, posted on social media that Leonard was making preparations to return home to be present when Dorian impacts his town.

Stuart Rogers