After more than two years, a sewer moratorium on the wastewater treatment plant that serves the Kinnakeet Shores area in Avon has been lifted, per a November 28 announcement issued by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ).
In the years leading up to the moratorium, Ray Hollowell, the managing member of Outer Banks/Kinnakeet Associates and a former developer of Kinnakeet Shores, allowed the wastewater treatment plant to fall into disrepair, per multiple reports. The treatment plant serves about 180 properties in Kinnakeet Shores, as well as the Hatteras Island Plaza, the Avon Post Office, and other nearby commercial buildings.
The Kinnakeet Shores Wastewater Treatment Plant was designed to discharge wastewater that did not meet permit standards to the five-day upset pond, a lined pond, and through the treatment plant. However, because many of the treatment plant’s components were not operational as of 2021, the plant discharged untreated and partially treated wastewater into the irrigation infiltration storage pond, which was an unlined five-hundred-gallon pond. This had the potential to cause leaching and infiltration from partially treated sewage, creating a health and environmental hazard.
On October 13, 2021, the NCDEQ placed a sewer moratorium on the wastewater treatment plant. As a result, while existing businesses and homeowners maintained sewer services, the wastewater treatment plant was unable to accept new sewer taps or extensions while the moratorium was in effect.
Because the sewer plant was prohibited from taking on more capacity, new construction was delayed because developers were not able to gain a sewer acceptance letter, which is required in order to obtain building permits and begin construction.
When the moratorium was implemented in late 2021, more than a dozen property owners in Kinnakeet Shores were in the process of obtaining building permits for upcoming construction projects. That number naturally increased in the months that followed.
In December 2021, a formal complaint was filed with the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) by the Greater Kinnakeet Shores Homeowners Association to appoint an emergency operator to furnish sewer utility service to the Kinnakeet Shores subdivision. At a July 2022 hearing on the complaint, the NCUC released a report advising Outer Banks/Kinnakeet Associates, which owned the wastewater plant, to turn over operations to Carolina Water Service.
After several weeks of back and forth, in August 2022, the NCUC appointed Carolina Water Service Inc. as the emergency operator for the Kinnakeet Shores Wastewater Treatment Plant in Avon.
Carolina Water Service estimated that the wastewater treatment plant would require at least $1 million of upgrades and renovations, including immediate repairs to the irrigation system, critical pumps, electrical systems, the emergency generator, and the UV disinfection system, according to the appointment order from the North Carolina Utilities Commission Public Staff, published on Aug. 3, 2022. To mitigate these costs, Carolina Water Service increased the service rate for residential houses and commercial properties.
Carolina Water Service made these detailed improvements to the treatment plant over the past year, and Tuesday’s announcement that the moratorium has been lifted follows multiple inspections by the NCDEQ, and gives the green light for plans to be submitted to the Kinnakeet Shores Architecture Review Committee (ARC) for approval, and for building permits to be obtained.
“Inspections of the facility, as well as self-monitoring data reported by Carolina Water, have documented significant facility improvements and efforts in meeting permit conditions,” stated NCDEQ in its announcement. “Current performance at the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) indicates the conditions necessitating the imposition of the moratorium have been remediated, and the WWTP now has both the hydraulic and operational capacity to accommodate additional flow.”
“In light of these findings, the Division of Water Resources hereby removes the moratorium placed on the Kinnakeet Shores’ WWTP. Carolina Water is encouraged to continue its efforts to maintain and improve the wastewater treatment plant as it endeavors to provide quality wastewater treatment services. Please be aware that should flow at the wastewater treatment plant exceed applicable design capacity thresholds as stated in 15A NCAC 02T.0118, or if the facility experiences an inability to treat additional waste, a moratorium could again be imposed.”
Pat Weston, president of Greater Kinnakeet Shores Homeowners, has been sending out several hundred emails to property owners, builders, real estate agents, and county representatives since the moratorium recession was announced roughly 24 hours ago.
“People have been waiting for years – officially since October 2021 – and I’ve had a lot of people email me back and say this is great news, and to thank the [homeowners association] for their efforts,” said Weston. “It cost Kinnakeet Shores over $40,000 for us to get to a point where there was a hearing with the Public Utility Commission that appointed an operations manager, and this wouldn’t have [happened] if we hadn’t filed a formal complaint with the utilities commission.”
“I thought it would be lifted in the first quarter of 2024, so this is sooner than I anticipated,” she added. “It’s expected, but it’s much anticipated good news.”