Wastewater plans stuck in neutral

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 10, 2003

AHOSKIE – Without factual data from the North Carolina Division of Water Quality (DWQ), Ahoskie officials are literally stuck in neutral as they attempt to move forward with an expected $7-10 million expansion project to the town’s wastewater treatment plant.

Those plans were discussed again here Tuesday during the Ahoskie Town Council’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting. There, Ford Chambliss with The Wooten Company – the town’s long-time engineering firm – gave a 15-minute presentation on the proposed expansion plans. Those plans call for Ahoskie to purchase a combined 390 acres of land on three separate tracts in order to give the town an additional 200,000 gallons of daily wastewater capacity.

However, that 200,000-gallon expansion isn’t etched in stone.

&uot;Unfortunately, Ford is getting very little guidance from the state in reference to two items that fit into the equation of the design portion of the project,&uot; said Town Manager Russell Overman as he outlined the early stages of the project. &uot;The first is the (land use) application rate that DWQ will allow. Secondly, we are unsure if the state will use this year’s rainfall numbers to figure into the average used for the design process.&uot;

Overman explained that these unknowns leave Ahoskie’s expansion plans without the luxury of &uot;hard numbers&uot; to work with. He went on to explain that the land use application rate is critical because he believes DWQ will reduce the current application rates it allows Ahoskie to use on its wastewater spray fields. He added that if the state decides to use 2003 as the &uot;wettest&uot; year in their review process, it would prove extremely detrimental due to the abundance of precipitation thus far.

To date, Ahoskie has received 43 inches of rain, one inch below the average for the entire year.

&uot;Ford will submit our plans and specifications calling for a 200,000 gallon per day increase over our present capacity of 901,000 gallons, but I have this feeling that once the state, following their review of the plans, applies their numbers into the equation, we may be left with less than one-half of our request,&uot; stressed Overman.

He continued, &uot;We could spend upwards to $10 million and not receive the capacity numbers we were expecting. That’s the big unknown in this.&uot;

Ahoskie Mayor Arthur Lee Wiggins pointed out that if the town’s expansion request is indeed cut in-half by the state, then future plans of annexation would consume all of the 100,000 gallons left to the town’s discretional usage.

&uot;That doesn’t leave us any room for growth beyond annexation,&uot; noted the Mayor.

In regards to one of the proposed expansion areas along the Early Station Road, Councilwoman Elaine Myers wanted to know the setback requirements used in the design of the new spray fields.

&uot;The state requires 400-feet of buffer from the spray field to any existing structure, whether it’s a home, a church or a place of business,&uot; said Chambliss. &uot;In some cases we have 3,000-foot buffer zones.&uot;

Other than the proposed expansion area along Early Station Road, Ahoskie is looking at two other spray field sites located on Jernigan Airport Road – one across from Sessoms Meat Packing and the other adjacent to the old Jernigan Airport.

Project plans will continue as Ahoskie moves forward to meet the 2005 deadline of having their expanded facility on line.

Over the past 12 months, Ahoskie has flirted with the idea of a regional wastewater facility. But that idea hinged upon GenPower, an electric generation station, constructing a plant just off NC 11 near Millennium.

The idea was to have GenPower accept treated wastewater to cool its turbine engines instead of groundwater. Ahoskie and other local municipalities met to discuss the feasibility of a regional wastewater facility.

&uot;GenPower remains an option, one where your wastewater problems will evaporate into the air,&uot; concluded Chambliss. &uot;But due to a soft economy, they have placed their immediate plans on hold.&uot;

Currently, DWQ is allowing Ahoskie’s wastewater plant to operate under a Special Order of Consent as the town makes expansion plans.