Highlands officials say water notice in mail is no cause for alarm

You may have, or soon will be receiving, a letter in the mail from the Town of Highlands that was sent out to all town water customers. It begins with some scary language in the headlines “Notice to the public,” “Important information about your drinking water,” and “Highlands, Town has not met monitoring requirements.”

Editor’s Note: Alrighty, you have my attention.

The letter goes on to say that the town missed the compliance period to perform a regularly scheduled test for contaminants. What more can you do after receiving this letter? It says there is nothing to be done at this time. What is being done? Continue to monitor and report.

A photo of the letter that all town water customers have received or will receive announcing a violation of state regulations. Town officials says it was a scheduling error, and not a problem with the Town’s water.

Highlands Public Works Director Lamar Nix said this was an administrative issue with the timing of the test, not the quality of the Town’s water. The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality requires a test each 3-month quarter. Nix said it was never specified which month the sample needed to be taken within the quarter.

“The samples required are to determine if any disinfection byproducts are in our water and are done quarterly,” said Nix. “The sample in question was due for the quarter of October-December. The Water Plant had the sample taken on December 4. There was no issue with the result, the issue was with the timing. The NCDEQ Public Water Supply stated that they wanted that quarterly sample taken in November. Therefore, from now on we will sample on the particular month within the quarter of the sample period that they want us to. Hopefully, we will know in advance which month within the quarter they want it done!”

The Town of Highlands Water Department conducts daily tests on the water including testing the PH balance each morning as shown above.

He added that Highlands has historically done well on these tests with only two issues in the past 25 years.

Operator and Responsible Charge at the Highlands Water Department, Wade Wilson, said regardless of the successful outcome of the test, it wasn’t within the specified time period.

“The state’s regs are tough, and they should be,” said Wilson. “Drinking water is serious and this testing is important. We passed but we missed it by a week, and that doesn’t matter, we were supposed to have it and we didn’t, so we got a violation.”

Wilson added that the regulations in place make him better at his job.

“I’m glad they’re that strict and hard on us,” he said. “You don’t want to send bad water to a school or a hospital or anything. There’s a big difference between missing a schedule and sending bad water, so it’s good they stay on top of us.”

Highlands resident Robbie Lang received the letter and took action just to be safe.

“When I initially read the letter, I was a bit scared, it made me feel that I was in danger of being contaminated,” said Lang. “I immediately went to the store and bought bottled water, which I never do because of the chemicals in plastic. I have always been cautious of tap water and have mine checked on a regular basis. In fact, I just did a water test yesterday and it was a good result, however I’m still drinking the bottled water just in case.”

Lang added that he appreciates the town informing the public but the letter itself was a little vague.

Town of Highlands Water Department located on Hickory Hill Road.

“I understand they needed to send the letter and I appreciate that someone is actually testing the drinking water,” he said. “I was just searching for the words ‘the water is fine’ or ‘you’re not in danger,’ not having that reassurance always keeps negativism in the back of one’s mind.” 

Pictured at the top of the article is a Town of Highlands intake station on Big Creek off of Webbmont Road.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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