Archived Story

Tunis sewer project moves forward

Published 3:43pm Monday, October 8, 2012

WINTON – After a long and sometimes frustrating wait, residents of a tiny Hertford County community nestled on the banks of the Chowan River will hopefully soon see their sewer woes come to an end.

Hertford County local government officials were notified last week and given authorization by USDA to bid the Tunis Sewer District project. The ads will begin to publish the week of Oct. 8 with a bid opening date scheduled for 2 p.m. on Nov. 13.

Once the bid is awarded, the scope of the work includes a gravity and low pressure collection system and a main pumping station that will send the sewage to the Winton wastewater treatment plant.

The final hurdle to clear in what is now a two-plus year lead-up to actually beginning construction was that the county satisfy a USDA mandate that the sewer rates would cover the county’s debt on this project.

Those rates have been established and approved by the Hertford County Board of Commissioners, acting as the governing board of the Tunis Sewer District. The rates are based on the amount of monthly water usage from the county’s rural water system. The sewer charge is $51 for the first 2,000 gallons plus $4 for each additional 1,000 gallons. A $50 security deposit is required prior to the service being initially provided.

Monthly charges that are not paid by a pre-determined date will lead to a discontinuance of service for nonpayment. Service will be restored only after the outstanding bill is paid in full plus a $25 service restoration charge.

Those choosing to tap onto the service are required to completely abandon their existing on-site septic systems, according to the rules and regulations ordinance adopted by the District’s governing board. That closure of on-site systems must follow all guidelines of that process set forth by the local health department.

There are regulations within the ordinance that requires some mandatory connections to the Tunis system. That includes those with existing on-site systems located in unsuitable soils as determined by the health department or ones that have failed; newly constructed buildings/structures that are within 200 feet of the system’s lines; and existing on-site systems that are located within 75 feet of the mean water level of the surface waters of the Chowan River.

While the authorization to bid comes six months later than county officials had originally projected, the good news is that despite having to cut through all the red tape on a project of this magnitude, residents of Tunis can finally end years of sewer problems.

Over the years, Tunis residents have experienced problems with private septic systems; some did not have one at all, rather “straight piping” raw sewage into inappropriate containers and hauling it offsite. Those environmental concerns were discovered in the spring of 2008, prompting the State of North Carolina to issue notices of violation against some Tunis residents using the “straight piping” method.

Additionally, environmental health personnel also learned in 2008 there were existing septic systems too close to the water, meaning they did not meet setback requirements for such systems.

While Hertford County officials devised a plan to alleviate these environmental concerns, Tunis residents were granted “pump-and-haul” permits by the state. That means they are placing certain types of holding containers into the ground, and then certified pumping technicians go in and remove the waste. That solution was deemed as temporary until the county could come up with enough funds to install a sewer system for the entire community.

Those funds were awarded in Sept. of 2010….a $1.225 million grant from the Rural Development arm of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA-RD) and a $500,000 grant from the NC Rural Center.

Meanwhile, the county moved forward with a February 2011 Tunis Sewer District Bond Referendum, which was approved by a 32-0 vote of property owners in that community. The approval of that referendum allowed the Hertford County Commissioners to issue general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $400,000 for the purpose of the design and construction of a sanitary system that will collect, treat and dispose of sewage.

Earlier in the process, the commissioners approved a Memorandum of Understanding between Hertford County and the Town of Winton for a centralized sanitary sewer system that will serve the Tunis community.

The Tunis Sewer District will be treated similar to the county’s Northern and Southern Rural Water Districts. Fees will be paid for by those using the system, not by all Hertford County citizens.

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