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LETTERS / Boone Water Intake Project- Ground Storage Clearwell Cracks and Leaks

Dear Editor,

I presented the information below to the Town Council again last night since there has been no response or even an acknowledgement of my initial email to the town staff or council members. I also presented a documented list of these questions to be included in the public minutes of the meeting.

My suggestion, in the spirit of openness and transparency which the town so loudly proclaims,  would be that the questions and this issue be addressed forthrightly so that the citizens can understand the significance of this potential leak issue of finished water, and both the questions and the answers be posted on the town’s web site. I also recommend that the town prepare and amend the 2014 Local Water Supply Plan (and plans going back to when this issue was first “investigated”) to the DWQ to reflect this crack and leak problem in the 1 MG ground storage clearwell and it’s potential effect on the town’s actual water usage numbers.

The Town of Boone should get it’s own house in order before coming 12 miles outside of the city limits to condemn land and grab water that is simply to replace water that is being wasted through inefficiency and an apparent lack of concern for our valuable water resources. The town’s silence on this is deafening.

Scope: The exact condition of the existing 1 MG finished water ground storage clearwell is unknown. Previous investigations indicate a joint crack running the width of the clearwell. The crack extends vertically up both walls and across the floor. Upon draining the tank, final repair recommendations will be made. Additional repairs beyond what is specified herein may be required. The Owner reserves the right to make none or all repairs.
Joint Repair: Description:
There is a joint in the floor slab and walls approximately at the midpoint of the clearwell, perpendicular to the length , that runs the height of both walls and across the floor.This joint is suspected of contributing to exfiltration leaksfrom the clearwellAdditional cracks may be present and will be further evaluated upon draining the clearwell.

Town of Boone, North Carolina USDA Raw Water Project
WKD Project Number: 80376.00.HI

Mr. Ward, I assume that you and Mr. Miller are well aware of the above information which is in the plans for the town’s ongoing water infrastructure project. It is certainly not an issue that has been shared in an open and transparent manner with the citizens of Boone.   Unless, that is,  you consider sharing the release of hundreds of pages of plans and expectation the folks (or even the permitting bodies for that matter) will dig through them. I am unaware of anywhere that there has been information released that addresses cracks in the 1 million gallon ground storage clearwell and the potential leakage of finished, exfiltration water that is noted above. Nor am I aware in any of the Local water Supply Plans that I have reviewed from the town to DWQ where they were advised that there was a potential leak issue resulting from these cracks that could substantially affect the water usage numbers being reported to the town. Based on past history, I would expect that you might say there was no requirement that such potential leakage issue be discussed in the LWSP or with the citizens.  However, what is required and what is right in the spirit of openness and transparency are not mutually exclusive.

As an example of what is a right way to address such a potential issue, I refer you to the ASU LWSP of 2008 where they advised that they had discovered a leak in their system of 500,000 GPD ( yes, that is 500,000 gallons per day ) which they had fixed, and thus their actual future projected usage was reduced significantly in their LWSP.  That raises another interesting point that neither you, Mr. Miller, your engineers, or other town staff and officials (current and present) have been willing to answer. “Why did WK Dickson use outdated water usage numbers in the EA (completed in October of 2009) by using the ASU plan for 2002  to rationalize that water sharing with ASU was not an option for meeting some any of Boone’s future water needs?”  A section in the EA of 2009 specifically addresses that issue. The 2002 ASU plan was used with obviously flawed and misleading data, when much more recent and accurate future usage numbers were available in the 2008 ASU LWSP plan that could and should have been used in the EA to be factually accurate.  That question has been raised numerous times with no factual answer. Most likely because there is no legitimate answer.

The impact of such leaks as you see from the ASU LWSP can be significant to actual water usage. Again, this is finished, exfiltration water in the 1 million gallon ground storage clearwell for Boone. As with many aspects of this project, once information is uncovered, there are many more questions that are raised about the planning of this project,  the actual water needs of the town of Boone and how they can be responsibly met,  and the lack of openness and transparency in sharing information with the citizens of Boone and all potential stakeholders in this American Heritage River.  I am going to take a guess and say that except for the town staff and now the town council, 100% of the voters in Boone have no idea that there is a crack and leak issue in the clearwell that is most likely affecting the town’s usage and projection numbers of finished water.

Here are a few questions that I am asking Mr. Ward and Mr. Miller to address openly and transparently regarding the clearwell in order to provide factual information and data to the media, the citizens of Boone, the citizens of Ashe and Watauga Counties, and governmental officials charged with oversight of this project (USDA, NCDENR/DWQ, USACE, Watauga County Commissioners, and Ashe County Commissioners for a few).

1. Were all members of the Boone Town Council  fully advised and informed of this potential leak issue with the 1 MG ground storage clearwell during discussions around the water intake project?  If so, when and how was that discussed? Are there meeting minutes available where this was discussed? If not, why not? I am copying each current town council member on this e-mail.

2. What is the exact type of ground storage clearwell used by the town and what is it’s location at the water treatment plant? Is the clearwell, above ground, underground, or partially above and partially below ground?

3. Why would the exact condition of this clearwell not be known after it has been the subject of previous investigations?

4. When were these “previous investigations” completed that revealed this problem? The term investigations (plural) is used above in the town’s plans so I would expect the dates provided for each investigation. Please provide exact dates.

5. Who did these investigations and how was each one conducted? Was a licensed contractor used? Was the clearwell drained during each investigation?

6. Was a report completed by those doing the investigations which included recommendations for repairing and associated costs with these repairs?

7. Was a complete leak assessment completed during each of these investigations to quantify the amount of finished, exfiltration water that is potentially leaking from these floor length joint cracks (104 Linear Feet) in the 1 MG ground storage clearwell? If a comprehensive leak assessment was completed, please provide the results for those assessments.  If one was not completed, why not?

8. After these investigations were completed, what steps if any were taken to repair the clearwell and stop any leakage? If none, why not?

9. Was NCDENR/DWQ notified at any time of this problem of cracks with the clearwell and the potential leakage issue.  Please provide documentation of that contact when and if it took place.

10. Above it notes that “Additional repairs beyond what is specified herein may be required. The Owner reserves the right to make none or all repairs.” Why would the town’s first and primary concern not be to repair what is apparently a significant (104 linear feet) , ongoing (investigations, plural), and most likely increasing joint problem (with continuing concrete degradation) in a total effort to stop the leakage and conserve the finished, exfiltration water?

The answer to Number 10 above may raise many more questions, but I will defer those for now.


Frank Packard

Todd, N.C.