Relief may come for Raleigh neighborhoods with dirty water

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – If you ask for a glass of water from someone living in the Wilder’s Ridge neighborhood in Raleigh, they may be a little hesitant to give it to you. It’s not a lack of southern hospitality, it’s because their water is less than appealing.

“There’s a lot of anger over it. It doesn’t seem like anybody is listening,” explained Devin Deariso.

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It’s a battle he’s been fighting for years. He’s even put in his own double filtration system.

He says 90-day filters are gunked up in two weeks.

“Whenever we would fill up the tub we’d get about an eighth of an inch to a quarter of an inch of sediment on the bottom of the tub so you didn’t even want to go get into it,” explained Deariso.

His appliances and fixtures also feel the pain.

“I’ve had to replace faucets, valves on the toilets, anything the water contacts you’re going to have to replace it, clean it up, or fix it,” Deariso said.

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Neighborhood-wide Problem

Devin and the rest of the neighborhood get their well water from Aqua and their frustrations are all the same.

“The water runs for a couple minutes, it turns from clearish to straight brown,” explained Nicholas Masel. He will only drink bottled water.

“We don’t feel like our voice is heard there’s nothing else we can do and we’re just tired of waiting on a solution,” Masel said.

Fay Yount has dealt with the brown water for more than a decade.

“It’s a problem that’s gone on for a long time and they’ve not seemed to do a lot about it,” explained Yount. “This is not fair to the people who live out here and pay a water bill every month!”

Homeowners said the neighborhood HOA has also reached out to Aqua to get the problem resolved. They said the company would send crews to flush the lines, which sometimes would clear up their water for a couple of days but it would always return back to its brown color.

It’s a problem that didn’t seem to be clearing up anytime to soon so North Carolina News Investigates took the issue straight the president of Aqua.

A history of problems

“What you’re seeing is iron and manganese which is naturally occurring minerals in the groundwater,” explained Aqua North Carolina President Tom Roberts. “Their water is safe.”

Aqua North Carolina President Tom Roberts
Aqua North Carolina President Tom Roberts

Iron and manganese are abundant in North Carolina. State regulators have set what are called Secondary Standards for them in drinking water, but since they’re not considered a health risk the state doesn’t really enforce those standards.

Primary standards are legally enforceable and limit contaminates that can affect public health. While secondary standards deal with the smell, taste and color, and are not mandatory.

While the Environmental Protection Agency does set limits as guidelines, the state took those guidelines one step further by adopting its own limits for manganese and iron.

North Carolina News Investigates pulled water sample data from the state.

Sample data can be here seen here.

North Carolina News Investigates found Aqua has exceeded standards for manganese for the past 15 years in the Wilder’s Ridge neighborhood. But they’re not alone.

Roberts confirmed that about 300 of Aqua’s systems statewide exceed those standards.

“I want them first to know that we heard you. We heard you loud and clear,” said Roberts.

Targeting Iron and Manganese

He says the state approved rate hikes last year, which secured funding for their solution.

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It’s a sophisticated filtration system that targets iron and manganese. Robert’s showed before and after samples and the water was clear. The filtration systems cost upwards of $250,000. Roberts said they’re in the process of prioritizing each site and are setting up as many filter systems as possible.

“I would think by the middle of the year, June or so, the filter will be online and then the water will progressively get better,” said Roberts referring to Wilder’s Ridge.

He said other neighborhoods with similar problems can hope to see the same solution. But some residents say they’re not holding their breath.

“We’re kind of at the point where we’ve given up on aqua we’re just going to handle it ourselves which what we’re looking at is a 5,000 dollar filter to install,” said Masel.

“We’re committed to investing and we’re committed to the long-term resolution of a long term problem,” said Roberts.

To check state records of water samples in your neighborhood click here.

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