EMERALD ISLE — Bogue Banks Water Corp. customers in Emerald Isle can now get a smart phone app that will give them real-time information about the water flowing, or not flowing, through their meters.
The company made the announcement last week, in the wake of increasing difficulties with saltwater intrusion into the aquifer and customer complaints about rate increases associated with the need for a controversial proposed well that would service a planned reverse-osmosis plant. It’s a particular problem on the west end of town.
In a release on the town’s website, BBWC said Orion cellular endpoints are an upgrade for customers. They are transmitting antennas on the customers’ water meters that send out the meter readings to technician's receiving devices. The endpoints that are included with the meter upgrades are not cellular based, but instead “talk”' to company vehicles’ reading systems.
However, those cellular-based endpoints also talk to cell towers, and the new smart phone app will communicate with the cellular endpoint, giving the customers info they can use to know if they need to adjust their water use.
Part of the reason for some customers’ big bill increases this year – in addition to rate increases – was increased water usage, and the company has pointed to heavy irrigation of lawns as the major culprit.
BBWC’s release states with the smart phone app, “You will be able to see daily meter readings. You can set up alerts in your app to let you know when usage exceeds a certain amount or when there is constant flow for more than a few hours … If a pipe leaks you can know in minutes, rather than days or weeks.”
The release states cellular meter endpoints cost more than the traditional meters the company installs and carry an additional monthly charge. The first 500 customers who sign up will get a one-time install charge of $40 and a $1-per-month service fee. After the first 500 are installed, the one-time charge will increase to $140 and the monthly fee will stay the same.
Meanwhile, BBWC continues to push for the new well site, which it wants to lease in McLean-Spell Park, a natural area off Leisure Lane. Many town residents have voiced opposition to the well site because it would necessitate tree-cutting and land clearing and would be close to a residential area.
The town bought the nearly 30 acres for about $3 million in November 2017 when it was zoned for condominiums. Almost all of the money came from the military and grants from the the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund, now known as the N.C. Land and Water Fund. That agency awards grants to enhance and protect water quality, and the park adjoins Archers Creek. The town has so far reserved the right to use 10 of the 30 acres, in the interior of the tract, for non-passive recreation uses.
The military provided money for the purchase because it does not want major development in the area, which is in the flight path of jets that used Bogue Field, a U.S. Marine Corps training facility.
During the town commission’s monthly meeting Nov. 10, Shaun Toms of BBWC reiterated previous statements the 200-by-200-foot well site would be buffered and not within 100 feet of any other structures.
“We’ve been searching for a well site for two years,” Mr. Toms said, and if the lease doesn’t go through, the corporation will have to look elsewhere, perhaps on the mainland for a new well site. That would drive up costs, he said, and affect customer cost.
Mr. Toms also repeated the company’s previous assurances the well will operate virtually silently, the utility “will plant additional vegetative buffers as needed” and cleared area outside the footprint of the well will be “brought back to its natural state.”
Town commissioners took no action and still plan to hold a formal public hearing before making a decision on the lease.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.