Fight for clean water back on tap in Granville County

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Residents hope SGWASA is finally ready to listen to their complaints.

John Mayo has just about had it.

"If they don't get the message, I'm prepared to carry this as far as I have to with a class-action lawsuit to get their attention, if that's what it takes," he vowed.

Mayo has been fighting for better water in southern Granville County for years. He thinks Tuesday night - for the record: November 14, 2017 - may be the time for a turnaround. Mayo is going to make a new pitch at tonight's monthly water authority meeting that he thinks has a chance.

"I'm going to have them consider the possibility of supplying individual reverse-osmosis filter systems for every customer they have," he said.

The meeting began at Butner Town Hall at 6 p.m.

Mayo said he knows it's a big ask but he said he believes the group in charge, the South Granville Water and Sewer Authority (everyone calls it SGWASA), is ready to listen in a new way.

Why now?

For starters, the election. Mayo said water-quality issues were top of mind for voters in southern Granville County and new members were elected to the SGWASA board who campaigned on better water.

Mayo said he also has new information about state grant programs that, under certain circumstances, could make individual water filtration an affordable option.

It's just one of the proposals Mayo said he's going to show the SGWASA board.

"I'm going to suggest this evening that they consider whole-house filtration system," he said, "I think the cost factor may be prohibitive unless they can get the funding from the state.

"If they're not eligible," Mayo considered, "then maybe we come up with a plan to allow SGWASA to be the purchasing agent so all the customers could take advantage of a volume purchase, and then, have the customers pay back SGWASA on a monthly basis."

ABC11 tried to contact SGWASA officials about that, and other of Mayo's suggestions; the ideas he said he would advance in the meeting. No one returned our calls.

SGWASA provides water to nearly 20,000 people in southern Granville County (think Butner, Creedmoor and Stem).

For years, ABC11 and the I-Team have reported on problems with water in that area.

Last year, Angelica Alvarez filed a report on tremendous amounts of manganese that was building up in the pipes and showing up in faucets and drains all over the town of Creedmoor.

A few months before that, lead I-Team reporter Steve Daniels reported on the unusually high number of cancer cases plaguing the same area.

Mayo was featured in that story and saw a clear correlation between the water and the episodes of cancer. He's still fighting that battle and said individual filtration devices would take care of that problem as well.

To be clear, the state (nor any official group) has not said the water is causing the cancer.

It hasn't definitively ruled it out, either. Mayo's take? That's because no serious testing has been done.

But even absent testing, people are taking the poor water quality seriously. In September, 10 schools in southern Granville County moved to bottled water and sent this letter home to parents.

Schools now on bottled water include Butner-Stem Elementary School, Butner-Stem Middle School, Creedmoor Elementary School, G. C. Hawley Middle, Granville Central High, Mount Energy Elementary, Tar River Elementary, Wilton Elementary, Granville Early College, and South Granville High School.

"The problem has been apathy," Mayo said. "A lot of people have just tuned out. They don't think anything can or will be done."

Mayo said he thinks that will change now that the schools are affected. Add to that the possibility that the state can help offset the cost and the new faces on the board, and there may be enough momentum to make a proposal like his make sense to the right people.

"It's now in the forefront of the community. I'm positive that out of 19,000 customers, probably 18,500 of them at least would want to see a change," Mayo said. "Because everybody's on the system. It's just that the leadership and the ability to stay on this has been absent."

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