Durham County is taking a makeshift tanker truck away from residents paying for a city water line
DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Neighbors living in a Durham County neighborhood are facing a major setback in their fight to secure the city’s water supply.
Last May, Queen City News’ sister station, CBS 17, told you how many homes did not have a safe water supply.
Since their wells broke down over the holiday last year, many families on Junction Road have been sharing water or living with contaminated supplies.
Such is the case for Valerie Hayes. She said she went to the doctor because the water was giving her a rash.
“This here was just solid black water every day,” Hayes said while showing photos of her samples. “Every day I wake up to solid black water.”
In May, Durham County provided a chrome tanker truck to supply water to several Junction Road homes. Last week, she was taken away.
Elmo Yancey owns two homes on the road and says three wells currently feed 10 homes. Now he’s asking the city if he can buy a temporary water line so he can help tenants and others in the neighborhood.
“They don’t bathe in it,” Yancey said. “They don’t drink water. They buy water or go to neighbors’ houses to shower.”
A local civil engineer was hired to help solve the problem. He said the goal is to have a permanent water line to the city for the people who live there, but they will have to pay for it. The city said that is an option.
“I got word from the Department of Water Management, and it was closer to $600,000,” Durham civil engineer Cliff Criddle said. “And the officials I talked to with the city said (a) no. “They’re not paying for it.”
CBS 17 reached out to the county to see when neighbors would see a solution, but did not hear back.
Meanwhile, the city also said those affected would have to petition for annexation, which would give them the ability to obtain a water line.
“From a water management standpoint, there are two options for property owners to have city water delivered to them: They can apply for annexation with the City of Durham and then petition the city to expand water service to these properties,” SR Public Information & Communications analyst Joe Lunn said via email. “Property owners will be evaluated for improvements when construction is complete. They can petition the city to annex and extend the water line at their own expense. They will have to hire an engineering firm to design and permit the expansion and hire a utility contractor for installation.
It’s a problem this community hopes will be resolved soon.
“If you get in here, you can smell it,” Hayes said while turning on her kitchen faucet. “You can smell it. It’s all coming up.”
Susanna Strasser started getting water from a nearby fire hydrant when her well broke down on Junction Road. But the City of Durham Water Department shut down the connection. The department also said it is against city law to use hydrant meters for domestic use.
“I try to use as little as possible because I don’t want to hurt all these people too,” Strasser said. “They are children.”
Lludiz Velazquez conserves supplies by saving rainwater in buckets. She said her failed well began spewing dirt.
“When my daughter started bathing, she said after bathing, ‘Mommy, it’s itchy,’” Velasquez said. “Her skin becomes very dry and then her head starts itching too.
Credle has done special tests on fracked wells and said many of them are contaminated or don’t produce enough water to test. The county’s testing yielded the same results, Criddle said.
“Before the development, all of these wells were in working condition,” he said.
“We have a big development coming to our left; “One on the right and they have water,” Strasser said. “There are a few houses in between that we don’t have water. How can that be? I want an answer to that.”
Many homes on Junction Road already pay a sewer tax to the city. Yancey said he has spent more than $6,000 trying to find solutions.