The city of New Bern and River Bend have entered into an agreement to interconnect the two municipalities’ water systems. The project will allow River Bend to receive an influx of water from New Bern’s larger system in emergency situations.
In 2010, the Town of River Bend made improvements to its water system which extended it to the west side of U.S. 17. The extension allowed the town to provide water service to the Springdale and Piner Estates neighborhoods and established a nonconnected crossing of the New Bern and River Bend water systems.
The municipal public water distribution systems owned and operated by New Bern and River Bend are both located in proximity to each other at the existing eight-inch diameter water main near the corner of East Church Street and U.S. 17.
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According to Jordan Hughes, city of New Bern engineer, the city has sufficient water distribution capacity within its current system to provide water to River Bend during temporary emergencies. He said hydraulic engineering analyses have been performed to determine that water from New Bern’s water system can flow into River Bend’s water system without adverse consequences.
An agreement between New Bern and River Bend to connect the two systems was approved last week by the New Bern Board of Aldermen. The agreement was approved by the River Bend Town Council the previous week.
Under the agreement, in the event of an emergency New Bern will furnish River Bend water in an amount not to exceed 100,000 gallons per day and at a rate not to exceed 500 gallons per minute. Emergency periods include temporary water outages in all or part of River Bend’s water distribution system due to a severed or damaged water main, a planned water outage, an unplanned water outage or a water supply shortage.
Hughes said a meter inside the interconnection assembly would be used to bill River Bend for any emergency water use.
The agreement recognizes that due to the length and size of the water transmission main that interconnects the two water distribution systems and the infrequent usage of water transmitted through the pipeline, the initial water quality transmitted from New Bern to the River Bend system may be poor and require flushing from the system in order to fully meet drinkable water requirements.
Hughes said when River Bend extended its water system across the highway it created the perfect opportunity to install an interconnection between the River Bend water system and the New Bern water system.
“Since then we’ve evaluated the options and kicked around some ideas to determine the feasibility of putting the interconnection in,” Hughes said.
Asked if the interconnection could be used by River Bend to supply New Bern in emergency situations, Hughes said it wasn’t as simple as just hooking the two systems up and turning the water on.
“There are capacity issues, there are hydraulic pressure issues and there are chemical treatment issues, because we treat our water differently than they treat water, so those are things you have to take into account,” Hughes said.
Hughes said New Bern currently has two interconnections with the Craven County water system, one at Craven County Industrial Park and the other on N.C 55 West. He said the city has also explored interconnecting with county water in the James City area.
“We’ve actually used the industrial park connection several times in the last 15 years to do maintenance,” Hughes said. “We’ll take our water tower all the way down, drain it and do some interior work and painting. While we’re doing that we can run the entire industrial park on the county system and then put everything back online once our tank’s ready.”
Interconnection part of major River Bend water system overhaul
According to River Bend Town Manager Delane Jackson, the interconnection agreement is part of a larger, $9.3 million town water system project.
Jackson said River Bend is currently seeking grants to cover the cost of the project, including the $120,000 price tag for the interconnection.
“If this project is approved the grant will completely pay for the interconnection, which is just one small part,” he commented.
Jackson said the major component of the River Bend project will be the construction of a new town water treatment plant located at an elevation above the floodplain. He said several smaller River Bend treatment facilities would close once the project is completed.
Jackson explained that although New Bern and River Bend’s water supplies both come from the Castle Hayne aquifer, River Bend lacks the updated treatment facilities available to New Bern.
“Over the years we’ve had problems out here with manganese and iron in our water system. We’ve also had a problem with hard water,” Jackson said. “The hardness of the water comes like that naturally from the aquifer, but our treatment processes are decades old and they don’t operate to the same degree of efficiency that more modern equipment does.”
Jackson said the current River Bend water pumping capacity is nearly a million gallons a day. Over his nearly eight years as town manager, he said River Bend has yet to experience an event that called for an additional water supply.
“We’ve never had an occasion where we’ve lost access to our water supply system,” he said.
Reporter Todd Wetherington can be reached by email at [email protected] Please consider supporting local journalism by signing up for a digital subscription.