Feb 24, 2023 - News

Millions for clean water in a Triangle town

Animated illustration of a droplet of water eroding the center of a stack of hundred dollar bills.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Cleaner water is coming to Pittsboro, along with dozens of other communities across the state, Gov. Roy Cooper announced yesterday.

  • The town, about 40 miles from Raleigh, will receive nearly $18 million for two drinking water treatment projects, in addition to a little under $11 million to convert a wastewater treatment plant.

Why it matters: Water insecurity is linked to anxiety, depression and increased rates of violence, scientists say, and is one of the greatest threats facing humans, Axios' Eileen Drage O'Reilly and Alison Snyder reported in November.

  • "Every single North Carolinian deserves clean drinking water, and aging water systems are a threat to the health and economies of too many of our communities,” Cooper said in a statement.

Driving the news: Pittsboro is one of 80 communities statewide that will receive nearly $500 million to upgrade clean water and wastewater and stormwater infrastructure — some $300 million more than it usually invests in projects like this each year.

  • That additional funding is thanks to federal dollars from two major bills Congress passed in 2021 for infrastructure and COVID relief, Cooper said, which will total $2.3 billion over two years for similar projects.

Zoom in: Upgrades are much needed in Pittsboro, where experts have found high levels of PFAS and other contaminants in the drinking water — at one point more than 30 times the levels in Durham — for decades, though the issue was long overlooked.

  • Just earlier this month, Pittsboro sued multiple chemical companies it says are responsible for contaminating their water supply. It also alleges nearly two dozen defendants continued manufacturing knowing the negative health and environmental impacts, WRAL reported.
  • The town has already spent $3.5 million on a new treatment system to remove contaminants from the water, according to the Chatham News and Record.

By the numbers: Fuquay-Varina and Garner are also among those receiving funding.

  • $400,000 will go to Garner for stormwater planning.
  • Another $400,000 will go to Fuquay-Varina to develop a new storm water utility, plus an additional $5 million for drinking water infrastructure.
  • Durham County is slated to receive $400,00 for a stormwater management project and the city of Durham $3 million for a storm water restoration project.

The big picture: Communities throughout America — including Jackson, Mississippi, those surrounding the Cape Fear River Basin, Flint, Michigan, Baltimore — struggle with water insecurity.

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