A device that’s been a topic of conversation for North Topsail Beach and other ONWASA customers may come to a conclusion at this week’s Onslow Water and Sewer Authority meeting.
Backflow devices can be a necessary installment in some houses and businesses, but after recent review ONWASA CEO Jeff Hudson said he realized not every property listed in their ordinance really needed the device installed.
The backflow device prevents water from outside sources getting into ONWASA water, which Hudson said helps prevent the drinkable water from begin contaminated.
Some of the homes were listed because of far-reaching and unlikely possibilities.
“It didn’t meet the common sense test,” Hudson said. “The hazards that we were seeking to guard against had a very low probability of ever actually occurring.”
This investment of $1,000-to-$2,000 was a lot for a homeowner to invest in if it wasn’t completely necessary, Hudson said, and ONWASA began to look over their ordinance to see what could be changed.
Where the rules were more strenuous was at the beach and other waterfront homes, Hudson explained.
The North Topsail Beach Board of Aldermen discussed the ordinance at their February meeting and were concerned with the necessity of the device and some of the requirements, like needing to have it installed above base flood elevation, which would be about 10 feet off the ground.
Hudson went to the state and asked for them to define a waterfront home and explain the necessity of having the device so far from ground level. He learned the state doesn’t have a definition and the height is to ensure the device isn’t submerged.
Looking at other beach towns, Hudson said ONWASA staff came up with their own definition of waterfront properties, which is a structure with an outdoor plumbing fixture, like a faucet or shower, that’s within 50 feet of a “permanent nonpotable water source,” like the ocean, a creek, or a stream.
Anyone who falls in this description would either need to remove the fixture, reroute it so it’s more than 50 feet away, or install a backflow device.
For the elevation, Hudson said the only way the device would be submerged would be due to flooding, like during a severe hurricane. In those cases, Hudson said ONWASA would turn off water to the island to prevent problems, which means there’s no need to install the device so high up.
In addition, the new ordinance no longer uses flood zones as determining reasons for a backflow device. If a property is within a flood zone they’d need another factor coming into play, like a swimming pool or irrigation system, before they’d need to install the device.
ONWASA tried to figure out the most reasonable way to address the questions from the community and the NTB board, Hudson said. NTB Mayor Dan Tuman, who is also on the ONWASA board, approves of the new ordinance.
Tuman has met with Hudson and gone over the ordinance and said he’s in agreement with the changes.
“Everything in this ordinance rewrite is crafted to lessen the burden to property owners,” Hudson said.
The number of properties that could need a backflow device has decreased from 13,411 to 4,861 with the new ordinance.
The ONWASA board will vote on the changes at their meeting this week, scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at Jacksonville City Hall, located at 815 New Bridge St.
Reporter Amanda Thames can be reached at 910-219-8467 or Amanda.Thames@JDNews.com