Water has recently been top of mind for Asheville City Council as the governing body grapples with residential water fees and the aftermath of a prolonged water outage in December. That trend continues during its meeting of Tuesday, April 11, when members will consider two resolutions aimed at improving Asheville’s North Fork and William DeBruhl water plants.
The first resolution, if approved, will accept $400,000 in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds for a study of water treatment processes at the two plants. (The total cost of the study is estimated at $407,695, with costs beyond the grant to be through the Water Resources capital budget.) A second resolution will authorize a professional services agreement with CDM Smith to conduct the study.
Staff reports accompanying the resolutions, which appear on Council’s consent agenda, cite “unusual effects on the quality of raw water” due to climate change as one driver of the study. Without improvements to treatment practices, the reports say, water customers could experience “mandatory water conservation measures” during significant weather events that lead to poor water quality.
Further context comes from a letter from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality addressed to the city of Asheville, in which state officials outlined the impacts of Tropical Storm Fred on the city’s water system. Extreme weather events such as the 2021 storm are becoming more frequent and intense as a result of climate change.
The DEQ noted that Asheville’s William DeBruhl plant stayed offline for 35 days after Tropical Storm Fred because the concentration of particles found in raw water from the Bee Tree reservoir exceeded state standards. The letter ties that increased turbidity to the runoff and destruction caused by the storm, which left dead trees and washed out bridges throughout Asheville’s watershed.
The direct filtration systems used by both the North Fork and William DeBruhl treatment plants, the letter continued, may not be sufficient given the likelihood of more severe weather in the future. DEQ has called for upgrades to the plants, including the addition of sedimentation basins to capture eroded or disturbed soil washed out during storms.
DEQ also noted that the water system had received more than 3,000 water quality complaints from 2017 through 2022, mostly regarding discolored water.
In other news
Council will hear a report from the Asheville Board of Alcoholic Control. According to the presentation, Asheville’s ABC is eighth in sales and fourth in commercial sales out of 171 state boards, placing it in the “top tier of profitability.”
An update on the city’s Capital Improvement Program will also be presented at the meeting. No further details were linked to the agenda as of press time.
Consent agenda and public comment
The consent agenda for the meeting contains 10 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights beyond the previously mentioned water system resolutions include the following:
- Updates to an ordinance that will prohibit the storing of bicycles, carts, strollers or other transportation items on city property for longer than 72 hours. The current ordinance allows for such items so long as they are secured and don’t block city sidewalks or streets, but a staff report says it’s hindering city efforts to deal with abandoned bikes and other means of personal transportation. Violation of the ordinance would be a misdemeanor; if approved April 11, the updated language will be considered for final approval Tuesday, April 25.
- A resolution authorizing City Manager Debra Campbell to execute a contract of up to $2.68 million with Tarheel Paving and Asphalt to resurface six miles of city streets, as well as conduct sidewalk repairs and accessibility updates. Roads to be improved include Gibson Road in North Asheville, Bull Mountain Road in East Asheville and Oak Hill Circle in West Asheville, among others.
- A resolution authorizing Campbell to apply for a grant of up to $3 million from the Mellon Foundation’s Monuments Project Initiative, which promotes underrepresented individuals and communities in public projects. If awarded, the funds would be used to design new plans for the former Vance Monument and construct a gateway corridor on S. Market Street connecting Pack Square and The Block, among other initiatives.
Council members will gather in their chambers on the second floor of City Hall, located at 70 Court Plaza, starting at 5 p.m. The meeting will also be carried live on Charter/Spectrum Channel 193 and livestreamed through Asheville’s public engagement hub and on the city’s YouTube channel. Members of the public can listen live by calling 855-925-2801, meeting code 4631.
Those who wish to speak during the meeting must attend in person and sign up at the door. No live remote comment will be permitted. Prerecorded voicemail messages can also be left at 855-925-2801, meeting code 4631; written comments can be sent to AshevilleCityCouncilApr112023@publicinput.com until 9 a.m. April 11. General comments for City Council can be sent at any time to AshevilleNCCouncil@AshevilleNC.gov.
The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found here.