Ahoskie gains #036;750k

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 13, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. – It was news the Town of Ahoskie was hoping to hear.

Congressman G.K. Butterfield has announced he was successful in earmarking $750,000 for Ahoskie as the town moves forward needed to upgrade its wastewater treatment facility.

“Adequate wastewater treatment and waste disposal are critical to the health of the environment and community,” Butterfield said. “Our ability to attract and retain businesses to rural North Carolina depends heavily on a good water system.”

The current wastewater treatment facility has been operating under a state Special Order of Consent since 2000, which has limited growth and economic development in the region.

“This is one step in a long process of appropriations and funding the town is seeking to defray the final cost of our wastewater treatment plant expansion,” Tony Hammond, Ahoskie Town Manager, said. “Depending upon what grants we receive will determine what the final cost will be to the home and business owners here in town.”

Hammond praised the efforts of Ahoskie Town Councilmen O.S. “Buck” Suiter, Carl Askew and Malcolm Copeland in helping to secure the $750,000 through Rep. Butterfield’s office.

“They traveled to Washington, D.C. in January and met with Congressman Butterfield’s Chief of Staff where they laid out Ahoskie’s plan for economic growth,” Hammond said. “The funds approved by the House of Representatives are a direct reflection of the leg work put in by those three councilmen.”

Butterfield said that he was successful in earmarking the funding in the Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2007, which was approved by the House. He said the Senate must still consider the bill and that any differences between the versions will have to be resolved before final passage of the bill. But, Butterfield said he is hopeful that the funding will remain in place for Ahoskie.

The existing system has severely deteriorated over the years, causing sewer overflows. In order to meet current environment standards, the collection system must be repaired and the treatment facility must be upgraded and expanded.

Since 2000, Town of Ahoskie officials have wrangled with several ideas dealing with an upgrade to its wastewater treatment plant.

Dan Boone of the Wooten Company, the town’s engineering firm, has suggested a timeline that concludes in November of 2009 with the town enjoying the capability of treating 1.6 million gallons of wastewater per day.

However, there are some hurdles to clear in order to reach that capacity level. The first is for the town to come to the realization that its current 900,000 gallons per day plant is, in all actuality, more along the lines of 440,000 gallons per day based upon current design criteria.

Boone recommended a three-phase project n a complete sanitary sewer evaluation survey, an upgrade to the current plant in order to maintain the 440,000 daily gallons and a plan to add 1.3 million gallons of capacity.

That added capacity would come through a Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR) plant that would treat the wastewater to such a high degree that it could be resold as an industrial reuse product.

Currently, the town is in discussions with Nucor concerning a deal that would send Ahoskie’s treated wastewater to the steel plate mill for industrial reuse. If that plan is realized, it would include laying roughly 87,000 feet of 12-inch, force main sewer lines from Ahoskie to Nucor.

The total cost for the current facility upgrade plus the BNR plant is estimated at $14.85 million, sending Ahoskie officials in search of state and federal assistance, including grants and loans through the USDA, the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the Rural Center.

Under the state order, the facility must meet environmental standards by November 2009. If the town cannot meet this deadline, it faces a $5,000-a-day fine.

Butterfield explained that one of the key benefits to the improvements will be reduced demands on the town’s aquifer. Nucor Steel currently draws over one million gallons of water daily directly from the aquifer for its manufacturing processes. But when the project is complete, Nucor will instead use processed wastewater piped in from Ahoskie.

Boone’s timetable calls for complete plans and specifications to be finished by November followed by the start of construction in November of 2007.

To add to Ahoskie’s upgrade, Town Council has approved borrowing $1.7 million for “I&I” (Inflow and Infiltration) in an effort to identify where storm water is infiltrating the sewer lines and make repairs on those problem areas. That project also includes upgrades to other sewer lines as well as a complete analysis of the town’s sewer lift stations.

“You need a complete re-hab of your sewer system,” Boone noted. “A lot of your problems can be traced to storm water infiltration of your sewer lines.”