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  • Writer's pictureCraig Myler

Fairfield Harbour Water System

Over the years, there has been considerable talk about the water at Fairfield Harbour. The talk was not about the water we boat in but the water we drink and the wastewater we produce. Where does it come from? Where does it go? This article will discuss some things you might be interested in within your own house as a resident. I will start with a description of the system at Fairfield Harbour.

Drinking water for Fairfield Harbour comes from three wells that draw from the Castle-Hayne Aquifer. Water from those wells is pumped to a distribution tank located on Broad Creek Road just past the entrance to Fairfield Harbour. The water is disinfected using chlorine and an addition of a chemical to reduce problems associated with Iron and Manganese. Treated water is pumped from the distribution tank to residents in Fairfield Harbour through underground pipes. The three wells and the location of the community water tank are shown in Figure 1, and a picture of the community water tank and pump house on the left as you enter the community is shown in Figure 2. The drinking water system is owned and operated by Carolina Water Service of North Carolina, Inc.

Figure 1: Water System at Fairfield Harbour

Figure 2: Drinking Water Tank and Pump House

The Fairfield Harbour Subdivision Wastewater Treatment Plant (FH S/D WWTP) is located at the end of Broad Creek Road, receiving domestic wastewater from the Fairfield Harbour Subdivision and discharging treated water directly to the Neuse River. The plant is owned and operated by Carolina Water Service, Inc., as shown in Figure 1. The plants' current permit, No. NC0033111 was approved in 2018 and will require renewal at the end of June 2023. The permit spells out all of the requirements for treatment and discharge from the plant. As Fairfield Harbour is relatively flat, sewage from residences flows in underground pipes by gravity to low points. These low points are at lift stations located throughout the community. Wastewater is pumped up from the lift stations to gravity flow to the next lift station until it enters the treatment plant. There are 25 lift stations throughout Fairfield Harbour. A picture of a lift station is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3_Typical of Fairfield Harbour Lift Station

Carolina Water Service plants in Fairfield Harbour are regulated by the North Carolina Utilities Commission, which oversees their operations and sets the billing rates. You may see trucks from Carolina Water Service throughout the community either testing the water, maintaining the lift stations, or repairing underground piping systems. They also have certified operators who run the wastewater treatment plant and the drinking water system. The overall system is depicted in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Fairfield Harbour Water System

Two critical items seem to draw the attention of Fairfield Harbour residents: the cost of the utilities to the homeowner and the quality of the drinking water we receive. As mentioned above, the North Carolina Utilities Commission regulates the cost of services. While homeowners here can, should, and do provide comments to the commission, setting those rates is dictated by North Carolina laws and regulations.

As for water quality, more can be said about that topic, although water quality is also largely dictated by North Carolina statute. Water utility customers in North Carolina are provided with an annual water quality report specific to their water supply system. Ours is These reports provide information on water quality required by law and demonstrate that the water system meets or exceeds State and Federal drinking water quality standards. That is where many people can be confused. For example, our water may be considered very hard (I usually measure between about 270 to 310 ppm of hardness as calcium carbonate). There is, however, no regulatory level for hardness and, therefore, no requirement to soften the water. While hard water can leave deposits on pipes, fittings, and utensils and is generally considered a nuisance, hard water has some reported health benefits. The second water quality condition which we face at Fairfield Harbour is iron. Again, our water contains measurable levels of iron which can have the deleterious effect of staining things brown. In the case of iron, the NC statute limit is 0.3 mg/l (milligrams per liter). Community water systems above this level must provide treatment to control water quality. In our case, 2022 measured and reported iron level was 0.18 mg/l which is only 60% of the maximum level. It should be noted that the First Craven Sanitary District (under the water tower next to the Food Lion) water treatment plant includes water softening and iron removal. In the past, Fairfield Harbour residents were asked if they would agree to the inclusion of water softening and iron removal by the Carolina Water Service, and the community declined this option.

Many Fairfield Harbour residents provide their own water softening and iron removal. These systems are relatively well developed for home use and can either be contracted for both installation and operation or Do-It-Yourself. Most softening systems in use are of the ion exchange type. In these systems, drinking water is passed through a bed of resin beads covered with salt (typically sodium chloride, which is table salt) at the molecular level. Calcium and Magnesium ions (they make up the hardness) displace or exchange themselves on the surface of the resin beads with the sodium. This is the ion exchange, Calcium, and Magnesium for Sodium. Your water gets more sodium, but the hardness is removed. After a while, the resin is coated with Calcium and Magnesium instead of Sodium, and these are no longer removed. Before this occurs, the softening system undergoes a recharging of the resin.

During recharging, the resin bed is disconnected from the house water line. A concentrated sodium chloride brine solution is passed over the resin and sent to the drain. The extremely high concentration of sodium strips off and replaces the calcium and magnesium sent down the drain, leaving the resin recharged and ready to continue removing hardness from your water. The recharged resin bed is automatically put back in service on your house water. For single resin bed systems, manufacturers recommend setting a recharge time in the middle of the night when no water is being used. There are many manufacturers of ion exchange softening systems. Some have two columns to eliminate hard water during recharging, some use mechanical rather than electrical controls, and some have sophisticated electronic control systems. These systems have a reservoir where the salt used for regenerating the resin is located. This salt must be replaced periodically depending on how soft you make your water and how much water you use. A typical home water softener is shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Typical Home Water Softener

One beneficial feature of most softener resins is that they will remove iron and provide softness. The iron gets attracted to the resin and is then removed during recharging. This is also a potential problem for the homeowner who does not clean their resin. Over time, recharging becomes less and less effective as the resin becomes coated with contaminants (such as the iron which was removed) that build up and are not removed entirely during recharging. Periodically, the resin should be replaced or cleaned using specially developed water softener cleaning solutions. If doing this yourself, you should follow the manufacturer's recommendations.

Another common home treatment system in Fairfield Harbour is a whole-house water filter. These systems come in various sizes and have various filter elements that can be used. A typical whole-house water filter is shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6: Whole House Water Filter

The filter element used in this filter is a 5-micron spun polyester filter. It removes particulates as well as removes iron from drinking water. You can see in this picture that the filter element is turning brown, principally due to iron removal. This type of filter is usually placed before a water softener. Other systems are available, but these two are the most common.

Finally, there has been considerable discussion about "smelly" water. This topic has been discussed many times and predominantly leads to the water heater and is a result of sulfide production and the smell is of rotten eggs or sewerage. While discussions on disinfecting, cleaning, draining, and replacing the anode are all valuable, I have found that simple identification of the problem and subsequent maintenance has worked well. Most tank water heaters have a drain valve at the bottom of the tank, as shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7 Tank Water Heater Drain Valve

If you open this valve and drain it into a bucket, you can see if the problem is likely in your water heater. The water in Figure 8 was drained from a water heater into a bucket from a relatively clean system, while the water in Figure 9 was drained into a plastic bag from a system that was not drained for at least six months.

The black water was also very smelly. You can usually connect a short garden hose length to the valve on the water heater and allow it to drain until the water comes out clear. Water left in the pipes will still have a smell, but this should dissipate quickly. The reader should note that not all home systems are the same, and any concerns or questions should be directed to Carolina Water Services.

In conclusion, Fairfield Harbour's drinking water meets or exceeds Federal and North Carolina regulations. Our wastewater is moved from our homes in a sewer system using gravity and lift stations to transfer the wastewater to a treatment facility at the end of Broad Creek Road. Once treated, the water is discharged into the Neuse River. Many homeowners provide additional water treatment, typically employing water-softening systems and filters. Proper maintenance of home systems is essential if those systems are to provide adequate service. Finally, issues with your water system should be directed to a Carolina Water Service representative.

Figure 8: Minor Sediment from Clean Water Heater, Figure 9: Water From a Dirty Water Heater

If you have any questions about this article, please contact Craig Myler at

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1 Comment

Feb 04, 2023

Great overview.! I have a water softener system, but the draining of the hot water heater I will put on my 6 month to do list.

Thank you for the time taken to explain this in clear terms to the average homeowner here.

7 year resident. John Rothengast

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