expensive and labor
intensive and main-tenance
says Tim Owens,
town manager. ...
just might be the
wave of the future.
The expense was also a major obstacle the first time
efforts were made to remove salt from seawater at Wrights-
The federal government built a facility in the town in
1964 to research freeze desalination. Ice made from sea-water
is salt-free, but it is difficult to separate the ice from
the brine. Like Sonnett’s wave-powered system, it worked.
The plant produced fresh water. But not in a cost-effective
“The small ice crystal size developed in OSW Office of
Saline Water pilot plants at Wrightsville Beach resulted in
a high economic penalty to wash the crystal free of salt,”
a U.S. Department of the
Interior report states.
Cost remains a major
factor in why desalination
is not an option even as
Wrightsville Beach wrestles
with ongoing water-quality
Public works director Bill
Squires says the town gets its
water from nine wells draw-ing
on the Peedee aquifer, an
underground source about
170 feet below the surface.
The wells are subject to
salt intrusion because of the
proximity to the ocean.
“It’s good water,” Squires
says. “But if you overdraw
your wells you will bring
in salt water. We have to
monitor our wells. There’s a
bubble of fresh water down
there and if you suck it too
hard you are going to get
that intrusion. We see a lot
of that in the summertime when we’re wide open, running
the wells all the time.”
Reverse osmosis would make salt intrusion moot, but
that’s not in the town’s plans. Even a small-scale plant
would require upwards of $10 million.
“It’s extremely expensive and labor intensive and mainte-nance
intensive,” says Tim Owens, Wrightsville Beach town
manager. “We have a small customer base and it’s hard to
provide that service. Your rates would be astronomical.
With 1,600 customers, it’s not cost feasible for us.”
Still, desalination just might be the wave of the future.
The technology works, whether on a small scale like
Sonnett’s SAROS system, or a large scale like the massive
reverse osmosis plants in Israel and Saudi Arabia.
WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH MUSEUM OF HISTORY
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