Johnston County will need to find another way to expand water capacity by 24 million gallons daily by 2027. The county’s long-range plan recently hit a snag, but officials say they’re exploring alternatives.
A plan floated last fall called for the county to use two rock quarries, both near Princeton, to store water pumped from the Neuse River.
The county has already purchased one of the quarries, located at Old Rock Quarry Road and Old Cornwallis Road. That will eventually allow an additional 12 million gallons a day to enter the county’s water system.
County leaders informally refer to the second quarry as “the big hole.” It’s an active mine run by Hanson Aggregates, a subsidiary of German-based company HeidelbergCement.
But that purchase now appears unlikely, at least on the county’s preferred schedule. For years, Johnston leaders have been in talks with Hanson to buy the quarry, located about a mile from U.S. 70, when Hanson is finished mining it. That was supposed to take about 20 years.
But since HeidelbergCement purchased Hanson in 2007, it has been trying to get more out of its quarries.
Heidelberg has received the county’s permission to dig deeper into the Princeton quarry, which means the company will probably be there longer.
“They looked at it and decided they could expand the length and width of the hole,” said Tim Broome, the county’s director of public utilities. “The quarry will yield more stone that way.”
Broome said HeidelbergCement will probably be there twice as long as originally planned, or well into the 2040s.
“We’re not painted into a corner, but we’re trying to change our long-term plan,” he said.
That planned call for the county to be using “the big hole” by 2027.
Now Broome and County Manager Rick Hester are exploring other ways to supply the county with enough water to meet population growth. Broom’s staff expects the county will need at least another 12 million gallons daily over the next 20 to 30 years.
Hester said he and Broome are looking first to purchase more water from neighboring Harnett and Wilson counties; Johnston already has purchasing agreements with them.
The county will also be able to pump an additional 1 million gallons daily out of the Neuse.
Hester said other quarries might be available for purchase, but he’s not sure any of them meet the county’s criteria.
“I don’t know if the logistics lend themselves to any other quarries in the county, in terms of the timeframe and everything,” Hester said. “But certainly, that should be a part of the puzzle.”
But Broome said county leaders shouldn’t give up on “the big hole.” If the county’s population continues to grow, it could be a valuable asset one day.
“Our successors will be (interested),” he said. “I perceive 30, 40, 50 years from now, it’ll be part of the Johnston County water system.”