BELVILLE — After years of lawsuits over an illegal asset transfer, the Brunswick Regional Water & Sewer H2GO has reimbursed the city of Belville for legal fees and repossessed the reverse osmosis water facility in Brunswick County.
Belville owed $239,484 in legal fees to the city of Leland, which issued a restraining order against the city in 2017. H2GO agreed to refund Belville half of the cost, resulting in a $119,749 payment issued on August 19.
READ MORE: Court Sides with Belville, H2GO, Lifts Order Allowing RO Construction to Continue
While most of the lawsuits were resolved in 2020, the transfer of legal fees was not finalized until this year.
The 2020 decision allowed construction of the H2GO reverse osmosis facility in the Belville city limits to resume. Reverse osmosis is a water filtration method to remove per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), or “forever chemicals” such as GenX, from the area’s drinking water.
“H2GO’s refund of half of the legal fees and costs awarded to Leland confirms efforts to save both the reverse osmosis facility and the utility itself,” Belville Mayor Mike Allen said in a press release. “By the RO . to save [reverse osmosis] factory, our citizens and H2GO’s customers will drink clean and safe drinking water for generations at the most affordable rates in the region.”
Both Leland and Belville wanted the utility for themselves, which served the unincorporated communities of northeast Brunswick County before both boroughs became official towns. The utility provider would provide a steady stream of revenue and dedicated infrastructure for a growing population for the city the authority controlled. The two municipalities also have a long history of thwarting the other’s attempts to acquire land, acquire land, and own various infrastructure.
In November of that year, H2GO’s board of directors voted, by a departing majority, to transfer its $60 million assets to Belville for just $10. Board members justified the move as “saving” the facility for reverse osmosis, as the newly elected board members opposed the factory. Those members questioned the need and effectiveness of the plant in relation to the $35 million price tag.
The move prompted Leland to file a restraining order against Belville, along with H2GO and three of its officials, citing the city for undermining the will of an election by voting on an issue that would not be under new leadership. accepted.
In 2018, a judge essentially “frozen” the assets until a decision on the legality of the transfer could be reached, allowing Belville to retain control of H2GO. In 2019, another judge sided with Leland and illegally ordered the transfer, with Belville taking control and handing it back to H2GO.
Belville appealed the decision.
After the three parties failed to reach an agreement twice, Belville redacted its appeal following a settlement with H2GO in which Leland was not involved.
In 2020, the ban on moving H2GO’s assets was lifted, paving the way for H2GO to regain its assets, including the reverse osmosis plant. After that decision, H2GO was able to continue construction on the site.
In 2021, Leland and H2GO decided to consolidate their water and sewage installations into joint ownership with the utilities, but with H2GO managing the operation of the services. However, the authority still serves people in Belville and other parts of northeastern Brunswick County, adding to a 15,000 customer base.
“We are pleased that this matter is over. H2GO considers both the City of Belville and the City of Leland as our community partners,” said H2GO Director Bob Walker in a press release. “H2GO’s board and staff are focused on the future as the only utility provider in the Lower Cape Fear River Basin that will provide PFAS-free, clean, and safe drinking water to residents of Belville and Leland.”
Reach journalist Brenna Flanagan at email@example.com
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