Frequently Asked Questions
Click a tab below for answers to frequently asked questions about water and sewer services.
Can I flush disposable wipes?
No, disposable wipes, rags, clothing articles, and paper towels should not be flushed because these combine with fats, oils, greases, and other debris to cause major clogs within the wastewater collection system and treatment facilities. The fibers contained within most “flush-able” wipes are not biodegradable. Also, if your house has a low pressure grinder pump, the pump may become damaged and the property owner could be responsible for the costs of repair. Please see the Grinder Pump informational brochure which discusses the use and maintenance of grinder pump systems: https://www.brunswickcountync.gov/files/utilities/2015/02/util_grinder_brochure.pdf
A briefing regarding legislation in the District of Columbia regarding flushable wipes provides additional insights into the issue:
How long will it take for my new grinder pump to be installed after I have applied for one?
It may take three to six weeks depending on the type of grinder system installation. If a sewer tap needs to be made for connection to the low-pressure sewer system within a NC DOT area, an encroachment application must be submitted by Brunswick County to the State, which can extend wait time to up to three months. Prior to the contractor/homeowner applying for pressure sewer service, siding must be installed, underground power must be installed to the structure, and final land grade must be established. If any of the above steps are not completed prior to service request, the timeline for installation will be regenerated. After the basin is set, an additional request by contractor/homeowner is required at completion of customer side electrical and plumbing installation. This is referred to as start-up, allowing County staff to inspect customer side connections with the pump being tested, ensuring the system operates as intended.
I am having work done on my home and need to locate my sewer line. How can that be done?
All Brunswick Counties locates can be requested through the NC 811 ULOCO system. You can call 811 and request that all utilities located at the service address be located by the appropriate utility owner. A standard locate may take up to 3 business days, and emergency locates will be taken care of as soon as possible. Please note that any water or sewer connections beyond the water meter box, gravity sewer clean out, or County owned grinder station are owned and maintained by the property owner and will not be located or maintained by Brunswick County Utility Staff.
What can I do to prevent sewer overflows?
Sewer overflows on a grinder system are typically caused by a pump failure. When your alarm goes off, please call one of our emergency numbers and refrain from heavy water usage, i.e. washing machine, dishwasher, showers and baths. Another thing that will ensure your pump operates properly is by not putting prohibited items into the sewage system, i.e. wet wipes, grease, and feminine hygiene products. These items shorten the lifespan of your pump and may cause a sewer overflow. It is not suggested to shut down the breaker. Silencing the alarm is all that is necessary until staff arrives for repair.
What do I do if the alarm on my grinder pump sounds?
We ask the homeowner to silence the alarm if they can, it is not necessary or recommended to turn off the breaker to the grinder pump. Please call in to our maintenance line (910) 253-2657. On the grinder pump control panel, there is an information sticker with our after-hours phone numbers as well.
What is a smoke test?
Smoke testing is the process of injecting artificially produced smoke into a blocked off pipeline segment to see where the smoke emerges. If the line is in good condition, the smoke will emerge from manhole lids along the line. If there are any cracks or defects within the line, the smoke will come from those. It is not unusual to see some smoke come up through cracks in the pavement or in residential yards during testing. It is also not unusual for smoke to come out of the plumbing vent pipe above your roof.
What is the purpose of smoke testing?
To ensure the sanitary sewer system is in good working order, it is important to locate and repair any breaks in the lines to prevent larger problems in the future. Smoke testing is one of the best, cost-effective ways to locate defects in main sewer lines and service laterals that connect to residences.
Should I do anything to prepare?
To prevent the possibility of smoke entering your home, ensure water has been run in your sinks and showers/tubs to put water in your P-traps. This acts as a blockage to keep smoke from coming out of the drains in your home.
Could smoke enter my home?
Very unlikely; however, if there is a P-trap that is not holding water, or if additional lines within the home are un-trapped or defective, it may. In this case, you may want to contact a plumber to investigate.
Remember: If smoke can enter your home through your plumbing connection, potentially harmful sewer gases may also.
Do I have to be home when smoke testing is being performed?
Homeowners do not need to be home and at no time will our field crew members enter a home.
Will the Coronavirus affect my drinking water?
Brunswick County’s two drinking water treatment plants are designed to filter and kill all kinds of viruses including COVID-19 the Coronavirus. The EPA mandated through the Safe Drinking Water Act that all drinking water treatment facilities designed and built in the United States be able to inactivate viruses and bacteria. The disinfection process of using chlorine is very effective at inactivating (killing) viruses. The World Health Organization has recently published a technical document describing the Coronavirus as having a “fragile outer membrane” that is generally less stable and more susceptible to oxidants such as chlorine (page 2 of document).
More information regarding COVID-19 and drinking water can be found here:
What do I do if my water is running brown/murky?
This can be caused by many factors within the home plumbing system and/or public distribution system. This discoloration is not a health risk. Run your tap for fifteen to twenty minutes, and if the problem persists, please call us at (910) 253-2657.
The possible causes are-
Flushing: Piping in the distribution system leading to your home may be rusty or have loose sediment, creating rusty-brown/murky water when disturbed. When valves in the public system are operated (opened or closed) rust and sediment can be dislodged. The operation of fire hydrants, flushing or routine maintenance in your area, and rust can also cause discoloration in the water.
Water heaters and galvanized or iron plumbing: If you are having trouble and your neighbors are not, then your home plumbing or water heater may be the issue. Some common characteristics of a corrosion problem in your home plumbing include:
- The discoloration is only in the hot water
- The water is discolored every morning or when first used after several hours of disuse
- The water clears after it has run for a few minutes
- The discoloration is only at one or several faucets in your home, not all of them
When it comes to leaks, what is my responsibility and what is the county’s responsibility?
Brunswick County is responsible for the service line from the water main at the street to the back side of the meter box, the tie in point where the plumber/homeowner makes the connection. Please note that if the homeowner requests a service call for a leak and it is found to be on the customers side, the County is not responsible for the repair. Furthermore, a fee for the site visit will be issued to the party responsible for the account. If the problem IS found on the County side, the repair will be made with no charge to the customer.
How can I get my water tested?
Your local health department should assist in explaining any tests that you need for various contaminants. If your local health dept. is unable to help, you can contact a state certified laboratory to perform the test. To find a state certified laboratory in your area call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791 or visit https://slphreporting.ncpublichealth.com/Certification/CertifiedLaboratory.asp#
What is causing this water shortage?
County Answer: The water conservation alert is due to drier, potentially drought like conditions these past few weeks, coupled with increasing use of the County’s water system capacity—likely due to increasing irrigation and other water needs. Brunswick County last had a Stage 1 Water Conservation Alert in Summer 2019. Summer 2020 was much wetter than usual, which led to less lawn irrigation and helped to avoid conservation alerts and the COVID-19 mandates led to lower peak demands.
How long is the stage 1 conservation effort expected to last?
County Answer: Conservation efforts and any additional actions will be determined on the projected weather forecasts this summer and overall water usage throughout the system. We are anticipating a much drier summer than we had in 2020 coupled with a return to more activities as the COVID-19 pandemic lessens that are likely to increase peak demands. Brunswick County had already issued a reminder for customers to use water wisely, especially during the Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day weekends. Taking steps listed in the alert like avoiding overwatering lawns, using the recommended irrigation schedule, and deferring non-essential water to nightfall and avoiding that 5-11 a.m. block will be especially helpful to reducing demand.
Are residents in danger of running out of water?
County Answer: Excessive demands typically manifest themselves in the form of low pressure, not the complete absence of water. There is sufficient capacity for all necessary potable water needs. Irrigation is what drives the water system production to levels near the system capacity and that can be controlled. Alerts are issued based on what percent of the water system’s water production capacity is being used. Implementing a Stage 1 Conservation Alert now allows for sufficient time, prior to the Memorial Day holiday and higher temperatures, to reduce demands to manageable levels. Whether or demand levels reach thresholds to trigger a Stage 2 or Stage 3 Conservation Alert depends on customers’ conservation efforts, weather, and the available raw water supply coming from the LCFWSA’s Kings Bluff Water Pump Station for the Northwest Water Treatment Plant.
What triggers the need for water conservation and what are the stages?
County Answer: Weather forecasts, historical peaks, system reliability, river levels, and the capacity of the raw water system are all considered in context with the system demand when determining if the next stage of a conservation alert should be triggered. However, in general, a Stage 2 alert may be declared when there are consecutive days over 90% of capacity. Measures to achieve the overall reduction in usage will include implementation of irrigation restrictions, ban on non-commercial car washing, restaurant restrictions, and public education on the water shortage.
STAGE 1 – WATER CONSERVATION ALERT
A Stage 1 water shortage emergency may be declared in the event of an immediate water shortage, as so declared by state and/or local officials, or when there are three (3) consecutive days when water demand exceeds eighty percent (80%) of the total water plant production capacity. Water production capacity shall be defined as the maximum volume of water that meets or exceeds state and federal standards that the water treatment plant process can produce during a twenty-four (24) hour period. Water production capacity can vary depending on system component reliability and/or raw water conditions or availability.
Under a Stage 1 Water Conservation Alert, the County will implement measures intended to reduce water used for irrigation by ten percent (10%). The County will also notify its wholesale water customers that they must reduce irrigation demand in their systems by ten percent (10%) in accordance with the wholesale water agreement. The targeted customer groups shall be customers with irrigation meters, wholesale water customers, and multi-family projects with common area irrigation.
STAGE 2 – WATER SHORTAGE WARNING
A Stage 2 water shortage emergency may be declared in the event of an immediate water shortage, as so declared by state and/or local officials, or when there are two (2) consecutive days when water demand exceeds ninety percent (90%) of the water production capacity. Water production capacity shall be defined as the maximum volume of water that meets or exceeds state and federal standards that the water treatment process can produce during a twenty-four (24) hour period. Water production capacity can vary depending on system component reliability and/or raw water conditions or availability.
Under a Stage 2 Water Shortage Warning, the County will implement measures to reduce overall water use by ten percent (10%). The County will also notify its wholesale customers that they must reduce their overall water use by ten percent (10%) in accordance with the wholesale water agreement. The target groups will be all County retail water customers, wholesale water customers, and industrial customers. Measures to achieve the overall reduction in usage will include implementation of irrigation restrictions, ban on non-commercial car washing, restaurant restrictions, and public education on the water shortage.
STAGE 3 – WATER SHORTAGE DANGER
A Stage 3 water shortage emergency may be declared in the event of an immediate water shortage, as so declared by state and/or local officials, or when there is one (1) day when water demand exceeds one hundred percent (100%) of the water production capacity. Water production capacity shall be defined as the maximum volume of water that meets or exceeds state and federal standards that the water treatment process can produce during a twenty-four (24) hour period. Water production capacity can vary depending on system component reliability and/or raw water conditions.
Under a Stage 3 Water Shortage Danger, the County will implement measures to reduce overall water use by twenty percent (20%). The County will also notify its wholesale customers that they must reduce their overall water use by twenty percent (20%) in accordance with the wholesale water agreement. The target groups will be all County retail water customers, wholesale water customers, and industrial customers. Measures to achieve the overall reduction in usage will include implementation of a ban on outdoor irrigation, ban on car washing, restaurant restrictions, restrictions on industrial usage, and public education on the water shortage.
Has the increased growth in Brunswick County created water shortage issues?
County Answer: We often hear a lot about the amount of growth and development coming to Brunswick County; one key point to remember is that the bulk of the development that is currently in the planning and design stages will not be put online until after the water treatment plant is expanded. The primary factor influencing the high summer peak demands is the water usage due to irrigation which can be managed to an extent with public education. Taking steps listed in the alert such as avoiding overwatering lawns, using the recommended irrigation schedule, and deferring non-essential water to nightfall and avoiding that 5-11 a.m. block will be especially helpful to reducing demand.