Author: Sara Edwards
This September, DEQ Secretary Elizabeth Biser joined Governor Roy Cooper in the community of Ivanhoe in Sampson County to highlight a transformative water infrastructure grant.
Ivanhoe homes have never had connections to a public water system. For decades, Ivanhoe residents and the local government had pursued expanding the county water system with no success. The area, which DEQ identified as an underserved community, has faced substantial flooding in recent years that exacerbated the lack of clean drinking water.
When the opportunity arrived last spring to apply for a grant through DEQ’s Division of Water Infrastructure, the community and county worked together to seize it. Now, Sampson County is receiving $13.2 million to design and construct a water distribution system in the Ivanhoe area, connecting 350 homes with 40 miles of new water lines. The investment is funded through the American Rescue Plan Act and state reserves, part of a $2.3 billion investment in water infrastructure statewide.
Close to Home
Ryan Blount is a user support analyst with the Department of Information Technology. When a new employee arrives at the DEQ Green Square building in Raleigh, Blount’s is one of the first faces they see. He sets up staff with their computers and handles IT issues, working behind the scenes to keep DEQ running.
Blount grew up in Holly Springs, NC, but spent every holiday and family get-together in Ivanhoe, where his 92-year-old grandmother, his mom and her 16 brothers and sisters were born. His extended family’s lack of clean water has been a daily struggle.
“Ever since I was a kid growing up, the water always had a smell, a different color to it...if you tried to wash clothes it'd turn your white clothes brown,” he said. “There’s always been an issue with the water, and this [grant] is something that they’ve needed for a while.”
When Secretary Biser and the Governor arrived at Ivanhoe’s Judy Family Memorial Center on September 27, they landed in Blount’s backyard—the community center sits on his grandmother’s land. He said seeing the Governor and his DEQ colleagues so close to his family home was a shock.
“I didn't quite see the bigger picture, until I sat back and was like wow, all the new people I've been helping set up their computers, phones—those people are the same people that are helping out the community that I pretty much grew up in,” Blount said.
At the event, the single-room center was packed with Ivanhoe residents, community leaders and local officials. Blount describes a calm but excited feeling in the air, with people rejoicing at the possibility of more infrastructure and business opportunities in their community’s future.
“The elderly community like my grandmother, she is hoping that she can see it in her lifetime,” he said. “She really wants to take that fresh sip of clean water out of her sink. It's going to mean a lot to them, they can't wait for it.”
The Fall 2022 Division of Water Infrastructure application round closed with 649 submitted applications for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater funding, nearly reaching the record number of applications received in the Spring 2022 funding round. The applications represent more than $2.7 billion in funding requests and reflect needs across the state, with utilities in 91 of North Carolina’s 100 counties requesting funding.