01/14/09 — Duplin to get help soon with brown water issues

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Duplin to get help soon with brown water issues

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on January 14, 2009 1:46 PM

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Former Duplin utility director Stanley Miller holds up a bottle of the harmless brown water that customers have been bringing to the county commission meetings as they complain about dingy clothes and unsightly stains on their fixtures.

KENANSVILLE -- Faced with increasing complaints about the county's sometimes brown water, the Duplin County Board of Commissioners has given the water department permission to expand its search for a new water technician.

Shorthanded since mid-November when one of the water technicians left for a higher-paying job, public utility director Donna Brown explained that she simply has not had enough people available to flush the county's lines as regularly as necessary.

But the brown water is not a new problem.

Former utility director Stanley Miller, who is now on contract with the water department, dealt with it for years before his retirement.

He explained that the problems occur in the 14-foot stretch of water line between each fire hydrant and the water main, and if that section is not flushed out regularly, the water sits there and doesn't move until the hydrant is turned on.

"It's been sitting there gathering iron rust, and then when the pressure drops, it goes into the water system," Miller said.

Then, he added, the first people down the line who turns on the faucets in their homes get brown water.

But it wasn't until that happened to Commissioner Zettie Williams, turning her white clothes to gray, that the board decided to act.

"It hurt me to see my white clothes dingy," she said as she moved to allow Ms. Brown to advertise outside the county government to find another water technician.

Previous attempts to find somebody in the county failed.

Still, when Ms. Williams made the motion to look outside the county departments to find the water technician, she really didn't expect a second. Commissioners have been adamant about hiring only from within the county labor pool. But Commissioner Frances Parks of Calypso gave the second and the motion carried with a 5-1 vote, with Commissioner David Fussell dissenting.

"If we cannot find an employee to move from one department to another we need to eliminate a position to add this one on," he said.

But with only one water technician on staff to make sure residents have safe, clean water -- the brown water, she said, is safe -- Ms. Brown was relieved to have the option approved.

Approximately 6,300 rely on the Duplin utility department for their water.