Desalination project polarises community in North Carolina, US

The future of a desalination project in Brunswick County, North Carolina, is hanging in the balance as two opposing groups battle over its future.

Construction on the project, which was developed by utility H2GO (Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer), halted in June 2017 after 900 Brunswick residents signed a petition calling for work to stop pending an election to the utility’s board in November of that year. In the event, the balance of the board shifted, from three in favour of the project and two against, to two in favour and three against.

However, in the period before the board’s official changeover, the incumbent officials transferred the assets of the utility to the Town of Belville, Brunswick County, where the plant is sited and which supports the desalination project going ahead. The transfer of assets was deemed legal under North Carolina State law in a court hearing; and a restraining order was issued to prevent work from continuing on the plant, and to stop the new board from dissolving the utility and the plant contract — effectively upholding the status quo for the time being.

The new board, the majority of whose members oppose the desalination project, have teamed up with the Town of Leland, Brunswick County, which is also in opposition. They are to file a motion in February 2018 that is expected finally to resolve the conflict.