News Feature | December 21, 2017

North Carolina Town Mulls Pros And Cons Of Outsourcing Wastewater Services

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga, Associate Editor, Water Online

charlotte.reg

A recent debate over the need for improved wastewater treatment in Mount Holly, NC, demonstrates the positives and negatives of having a big city handle its neighbor’s treatment needs.

“Mount Holly needs to update its wastewater management practices to meet North Carolina standards, but a move by City Council to turn such services over to Charlotte is generating some pushback on social media,” The Gaston Gazette reported.

The issue has been up for debate for more than 10 years, ever since state regulations were elevated for nitrogen and phosphorus discharge into local Lake Wylie and the Catawba River. While Mount Holly’s outdated wastewater system was originally grandfathered in, the state changed its rules in 2007 and the city has been in violation ever since.

It is currently allowed to use a portion of Charlotte’s discharge permit, which keeps it in compliance while it looks for a permanent solution.

So, Mount Holly can either upgrade its treatment plant (estimated to cost $12 million) or outsource its wastewater services to a neighbor like Charlotte. And officials have elected for the latter.

“In 2013, Mount Holly inked a nonbinding agreement to allow Charlotte to begin treating the smaller city’s wastewater,” per the Gazette. “Last month, City Council voted to move forward to establish a formal contract with Charlotte.”

Despite the move, residents have voiced concern that the decision will increase wastewater rates and send that money to Charlotte instead of keeping it local. It could also impact wastewater treatment jobs in Mount Holly.

“Rates are likely to increase somewhat regardless of which path Mount Holly takes, but the city maintains that outsourcing will ultimately be cheaper,” according to the Gazette. “Some of the objection on Facebook was focused on residents’ money not staying in Mount Holly.”

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Image credit: "IMG_6940_HDRa,” Eve Lane, 2010, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/