Tryon questions free mountain water to customer with 1926 deed

Published 3:15 pm Wednesday, May 23, 2012

State requires boil notice to a dozen users
The Town of Tryon is currently looking into a 1926 deed that has allowed some Country Club Road residents to receive free mountain water for irrigation purposes.
Peter Markovic told Tryon Town Council on May 15 that his spigot from the raw (untreated) mountain water source is no longer working since the town re-established the line.
Tryon now uses water from its former mountain water source, as well as Lake Lanier water, to supply customers. The town recently rehabilitated its water plant and re-established the line from the mountain water source, which had not been used to supply water for the town since 1989.
Markovic has an agreement for his property dated August 1926 that he claimed states he has access to the water in exchange for the town running the pipe across his property.
Tryon attorney Bailey Nager said he disagrees with Markovic’s reading of the 1926 agreement. Nager said he does not believe the agreement gives property owners access to the water.
Nager also said the town contacted the health department to see if there are health concerns with anyone using raw water out of the pipe. The local health department suggested the town speak with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which told the town to issue boil notices to any users of the raw water. The notices were scheduled to be issued yesterday, May 24.
Nager said the state is concerned about anyone drinking raw water out of the line and said it would like to see all drawing of this raw water shut down.
“I’ve had access to that water since I bought the property in 1995, as well as other individuals,” Markovic told council.
Markovic said he has a well and uses the water from the line only to irrigate his property.
He said since last year no water will come from the spigot because the town is now using the water and the flow is too fast for the water to build up in the pipe.
“I purchased this property specifically because it had this other water,” Markovic said.
Council members expressed concerns over property owners having free access to water and concerns about its safety.
“It’s hard for me to fathom the town saying it was going to give away free water,” said commissioner Roy Miller. “I don’t think it’s fair to our other citizens. That’s just my position on it.”
Miller also said there are health and liability concerns because the town is now using that water.
Markovic said the health issues were taken care of in the 1970s when the state prohibited use of raw water coming from the mountain for any use except irrigation.
Miller said his issue is there are 12 people who are not paying for that water.
“And in exchange for that pipe being laid on that property we get access to that water,” Markovic said.
Nager said his reading of the agreement is that the town did not make a promise that anyone could take that water, and certainly not for free. He said there is no wording saying anything about taking water.
Markovic said he and other attorneys disagree with Nager’s interpretation of the agreement.
Commissioner Wim Woody asked whether Markovic has some legal right now to use the water since the property has used it for so long.
Nager said that wouldn’t be the case for use of water.
“We’re not giving away free water,” Miller said. “I’m not, anyway. For 15 years I’d say you [Markovic] enjoyed free water.”
Miller said if Tryon allowed this it would have to give every Tryon citizen the same privilege.
Council decided to request DENR send the town in writing its suggestion of whether the town can allow any use of raw water. Town officials said they will make a decision on Markovic’s request to fix the access following correspondence from the state.

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