Engineer Warns Of Looming Water Crisis for Davie

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 12, 2012

No surprise, there wasn’t a single question at the last week’s candidate’s forum about the most vital service Davie County provides its residents. Civil engineer John C. Grey Jr. could have predicted it. The epicenter of politics in Davie has been the high school. Nothing else matters. Chances are, some candidates don’t even know the county has two water treatment facilities, and one is on life support.
Davie’s 10,000 customers and its politicians take water for granted. The taps have always worked, but Grey has been paid to anticipate the future. As his farewell gift, Gray has submitted a 50-year plan for the county water system that should be a well-timed slap to the face.
Diagnosed with lupus, Grey is closing his Mocksville office and has already moved his home to Chapel Hill to be closer to physicians. This was a wonderful place for John and Mitzi to raise their family, but the girls are grown now and spread far and wide.
He could have gone quietly, but that is not his nature. Mocksville, Bermuda Run and the county are losing a tremendous resource. Grey’s firm has kept the water and sewage flowing in the right directions and at good pressure. He knows where everything is buried.
He also knows the county is blithely living without adequate water insurance — a suitable backup for emergencies — and its ancient Cooleemee water treatment facility is literally decaying from within. The new Sparks Road water system recently won an impressive award for its quality, and Gray cites his “heroes” — water system employees who will work through the night to fix a pipe break.
Davie’s politicians, however, don’t impress him. For a decade, they have been consumed by Davie County High School while other vital services are ignored.
Gray’s report includes harsh language:
“If you hold a clear glass of that award winning water up to the light it will look just perfect but it is still polluted. If the pollution had a color it would be bright yellow, if it had an odor it would smell vaguely of ammonia. The pollution has a name. It is called politics,” he wrote to the commissioners last month.
“Little League fields are more important. High schools are more important. Law enforcement is more important. Economic development is more important. Hospitals are more important. There is no glory in a utility trench at 2:00 am. No votes. No sound bites. No interviews. Davie County has two water plants and 400 miles of pipe serving over 10,000 taps. If my heroes loose vigilance for even one hour of one day someone’s health could be compromised.”
Gray makes three primary recommendations:
• Form a county water authority with a specific task of providing clean water for Davie residents. Put the authority — staffed by people who know something about water  — in charge of decisions, not distracted or disinterested commissioners.
• Negotiate a contract with Davidson Water and install a major link to its large facility on the Yadkin River at the US 64 bridge to guarantee a back-up supply of water in case of disaster. The Davie and Mocksville water systems are interconnected to help with emergencies, but Mocksville’s water plant has multiple problems of its own. Its own life expectancy is in doubt.
• The Cooleemee plant on the South Yadkin must be closed or rebuilt. The concrete is crumbling from within. A new coat of paint can’t hide …