Town’s water, sewer

Published 8:27 pm Thursday, May 1, 2008

By Staff
systems need repairs
Treatment plants OK,
problems elsewhere
Staff Writer
BELHAVEN — The Town Council learned Tuesday night the town’s sewer and water distribution systems leak and the town doesn’t have enough money to take the first recommended step toward fixing them.
The good news is that the town’s water and wastewater treatment plants are state-of-the-art facilities running well below capacity, according to Gus Simmons, an expert hired by the town to do a feasibility study of upgrading and repairing the town’s aging sewer system. All of the infrastructure that link the two plants and tie Belhaven residents into the systems, however, are failing, he said.
Simmons brought the council a $1.1 million proposal to replace about two miles of aging sewer pipes in the town’s downtown area. The project would be “good first step” toward the completion of a multi-year master plan that calls for eventually replacing the entire system, he said.
Utilities Director Toby Woolard said the 2.2 miles of sewer lines Simmons has evaluated has a “95-percent failure rate” when it comes to inflow and infiltration — a process by which stormwater enters sewer pipes through cracks or other openings in the pipes. The excess water in the sewer system has the potential to overload the town’s sewage-treatment plant and drive up operating costs. Backups at the sewage-treatment plant resulting from stormwater intrusion also send sewage floating down Main Street and in other parts of town during heavy rain events, Mayor Adam O’Neal has said in the past. Simmons said fixing the leaks is Belhaven’s “most pressing issue” regarding its sewer system.
The town is in the running for a $500,000 grant from the N.C. Rural Center to help meet the project’s price tag. That would leave the town with an unpaid balance of $600,000 — a sum O’Neal said was too high for the town to tackle. O’Neal said the town would be able to afford to complete the project if it were not required to help Beaufort County pay for another sewer endeavor.
That project is a $1 million northern bypass of the town’s sewer system aimed at making the pumping system non-staged. Currently, sewage from certain areas of town flow to pumps that then convey the sewage to the treatment plant. The bypass would allow each sewage basin to pump directly to the plant. That project, which would allow for more sewer hookups in the county, has monopolized a second $500,000 grant from the Rural Center.
Though the project is a necessary step in upgrading the town’s sewer system and would create more failsafes during pump failures, O’Neal said the deal with the county was struck during the period when former Mayor Charles Boyette “controlled” the council. O’Neal said that deal was not a wise decision for the town at the time.
The council asked that Simmons return with a proposal to spend about $400,000 the town has collected from impact fees. He was tasked with finding the most effective use of that amount of money and nothing else.