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Sewer debate goes to public

The Town Council will hold a public hearing this week to decide the fate of The Woods, a proposed subdivision that has drawn the ire of some town residents.

At issue is a proposal by developer, IB Development, and its parent company, Infinity Partners, to install a private sewer treatment system on the 200-plus acre property near N.C. 84 and Providence Road in western Union County.

Mayor Nancy Anderson has said the hearing could stretch over several evenings. The site has been moved to Weddington High School's auditorium to accommodate the crowd.

The developers want to use reclaimed water from the sewer system to irrigate lawns and landscaping in the neighborhood. They say it fits with their vision of a subdivision built using green practices.

People who live near the proposed subdivision say they are worried about health, safety, bad odors and the possibly negative effect on their property values. Nearby residents who are on well water also are concerned about contamination from the treated water that would run off lawns.

“The citizens are going to face the repercussions of this garbage,” said Janice Propst, whose family owns 200 acres adjacent to The Woods. “We can't be told with data what will happen to our ground water. We're supposed to be guinea pigs.”

The Woods would consist of 203 proposed homes that would sell for $1.2 million to $3million. Waste water and sewage from those homes would be treated by two Siemens Xpress membrane bioreactor plants, which are each small enough to fit on the back of an 18-wheeler, developers said.

The plants would be housed near the center of the community, next to the clubhouse and tennis courts. Trucks would come monthly to a sealed garage to pump away the solid waste. The reclaimed water, which would be required to meet state standards, would be piped to two holding ponds on the southeast end of the property. That water would be filtered again before being used.

Reclaimed water would not be released into any streams and residents wouldn't be able to smell it, developers say. Residents of The Woods would be on county water.

Propst, along with residents of nearby Aero Plantation and other neighborhoods, formed the group Friends of Weddington. So far they have posted signs on their property, demonstrated at Town Hall, organized a petition drive and put up a web site, friendsofwed, to combat the proposed plant.

The group has hired experts such as an environmental engineer, a geologist and lawyer to help them present their case to the council Monday. They have spent an estimated $20,000 so far to fight the plant.

IB has their own group of experts who will speak at the hearing.

Melissa Emerine and her family moved from the Ballantyne area about a year ago. She remembers the smell from the McAlpine Creek treatment plant and fears the same smell would find its way to Weddington.

“Everything that we value could be potentially destroyed,” Emerine said.

IB Development says their fears are unfounded. Because of state permitting and regulation, “every drop of water in the system has to be accounted for,” said Ashley Campbell of Infinity Partners. “It can't smell. Who would buy a $2million house in a neighborhood that smells bad?”

Reclaimed water has been used for many years in Union County. The city of Monroe and the county wastewater treatment plants allow trucks to carry reclaimed water to wash streets or spray down dust at construction sites.

And now, the nearby town of Marvin is researching its own ordinances to see if private sewer plants would be allowed, said Anna Whalen, senior planner for the town.