12/09/07 — Industries gather to talk about water use

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Industries gather to talk about water use

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on December 9, 2007 2:00 AM

Worried about the impact on their businesses if the current drought continues, representatives from several of Wayne County's leading industries sat down with officials from the city of Goldsboro and the state Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance to discuss what steps they can take to conserve water.

So far, much of the advice and conservation recommendations have been targeted toward homeowners, but, said Goldsboro Public Utilities Director Karen Brashear, industry and residents each make up about 50 percent of the city's 4.8-million-gallons-per-day usage.

She explained that much of the concern, especially for industries whose livelihood depends on their ability to use water, comes from not knowing what to expect.

"This is really a slow-motion natural disaster that we've never experienced before," she said. "This drought is the worst drought on record (since 1895)."

In fact, Ms. Brashear continued, according tree ring data it's one of the top five worst droughts in the last 800 years and is expected to last through summer 2008.

Currently, Wayne County is in an exceptional drought, the worst category of drought according to the N.C. Division of Water Resources

"This is looking to be a real event that we have to pay attention to," she said. "But what's going to happen next, I don't know. It doesn't look good."

The difficulty, she explained, is twofold -- nobody has experience facing this kind of problem, and much of what happens in Goldsboro and Wayne County is affected by the actions of upstream communities like Raleigh, which has about 100 days of water left.

"I don't really know what all that means for their residents and businesses, but that's why we have to prepare," Ms. Brashear said.

And, while the city does have emergency plans in place, there could be at least a million-gallon-per-day reduction in the amount of water supplied if conditions continue to worsen.

So for industries, the challenge is to figure out how they can survive this drought with minimal impact on their bottom lines and employees.

"From an industry perspective, (the drought) may curtail your operations unless you're proactive enough to find ways to operate with the minimum amount possible," warned state environmental engineer Keyes McGee.

Fortunately, he continued, "it's not rocket science" to figure out how to conserve water -- it just takes a little work.

The first steps, he explained, are to establish a baseline of how much and where water is used, set goals for usage reduction and then keep comprehensive records.

"You've got to get moving with this," McGee said. "The most important part is finding how much water is unaccounted for."

Then, he continued, industries need to begin addressing their deficiencies in areas of cooling and heating, cleaning and rinsing, food preparation, landscaping and sanitary and domestic uses.

Among easy fixes are the replacement of all nozzles and fixtures with low-flow ones, the capture and recycling of non-potable water and the completion of regular maintenance on water-flow infrastructure.

And some of those, industries in Wayne County are already doing.

At Goldsboro Machine Works in Rosewood, they are looking for ways to recycle and reuse the coolant running through their machines, even though they pull water from the Fork Township Sanitary District, which is on deep water wells.

"It's not a major concern, but we still want to do our part to conserve," said President Deanna Mitchell.

Other companies, such as the Arnold Wilbert Corp. on U.S. 70, have stopped washing their vehicles, while looking for ways to recycle other usage.

Even Waukesha Electric Systems on U.S. 117, though not a particularly water-intensive industry, has fitted all of its plumbing outlets with low-flow devices.

Further south, Mount Olive Pickle Co. is working to identify and fix leaks and overflows, implement new technologies that use less water and install low-flow devices.

The company also is urging employees to conserve not only on the job, but at home as well, and it plans to conduct a more comprehensive water audit in the near future using the information learned during Wednesday's seminar.

"We've been trying to conserve and look at our water usage for several years now," said Janet Turner, technical services director.

But perhaps the most aggressive company in Wayne County when it comes to water conservation, Ms. Brashear said, has been the poultry processor Case Farms.

"Our industry mandates that we use a certain amount of water," plant manager Sammy Caudle said.

In the last two months, though, he explained, the company has found ways, such as the recycling of non-potable water, to reduce its usage by 18 to 23 percent.

In the next two to three months, they're hoping to drop that another 15 to 20 percent.

"There is a cost benefit to us, but with the drought, it's also the right thing to do," Caudle said.

And that kind of attitude and effort, said Mike Haney, existing industry specialist for the Wayne County Develop-ment Alliance, is exactly what is needed.

"This (seminar) was the first step in getting industries to partner with the state and with the City of Goldsboro," he said. "We feel this is very important because here we are in December and if this drought is prolonged, what's going to happen to industries in, say, April?

"We just want to be proactive, rather than reactive. And our industries are being proactive and they should be applauded for what they're doing. Investing (in conservation) now, in my opinion, could be saving us jobs down the road."