Rain, cold slow Ahoskie project

Published 10:35 am Thursday, January 7, 2010

AHOSKIE – One year and nearly 18 million dollars from now, the Town of Ahoskie is scheduled to have its new wastewater treatment plant on line.

From the looks of things on a cold January morning here Tuesday, the construction process is well underway.

T.A. Loving of Goldsboro, serving as the general contractor for the $17.87 million project, along with numerous sub-contractors are assembled on the construction site located at the town’s current wastewater facility off Johnny Mitchell Road.

To date, the biggest headache facing the workers isn’t the huge scope of the overall project, but rather the weather. More recently, the problem has been the Arctic-type weather. Prior to the arrival of the current cold snap, an extremely wet finish to 2009 placed the workers in a muddy mess.

“They’ve had to dig up the mud and replace it with fresh dirt just to have some solid footing to work on,” said Ahoskie’s Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent Stewart White. “Despite all the rain, and now the cold weather, they’ve been working each and every day.”

The wet ground is the result of 13-plus inches of rain over the final two months of 2009 (November: 6.93” and December: 6.56”). That was on top of a combined 13.86 inches of rain that fell during the months of July through October. Rainfall amounts are recorded daily at the Ahoskie wastewater plant.

“Right now we’re about two weeks behind the original construction plan,” said Project Superintendent Alan Pennington of T.A. Loving. “Those delays are weather related due to the rain and the cold snap. When the weather breaks and we get rolling you can bet that we’ll go just as hard as we can go to get back on schedule.”

Construction officially began in August. Pennington said approximately 30 workers are currently at the construction site. That number is expected to grow to 50.

To date, workers have poured nearly 2,000 yards of concrete that provide the foundation for the various elements of the project. All totaled, the project calls for 6,500 yards of concrete.

Some of that concrete is now coated with ice. The recent cold snap has left some of the exterior of a 300,000 gallon reclaim water tank taking on the appearance of a frozen statue. That came after the water from a sprinkler used to help cure the tank’s concrete turned to ice.

Once in operation, the reclaim tank will hold treated wastewater that can be reused for irrigation or industrial use.

That’s just part of the new plant, one referred to as a “B&R” operation – Biological Nutrient Removal System.

White explained that the oxidation ditches are circular basins through which the wastewater flows. Activated sludge is added to the oxidation ditch so that the microorganisms will digest the human waste in the water. Once that element is removed, the solution flows out of the ditches to a clarifier that removes the sludge, thus making the treated wastewater good for industrial or irrigational re-use. Two clarifiers are being constructed at the new plant.

In combination with the current wastewater sprayfields located on the property, the new plant will nearly double Ahoskie’s wastewater capacity as it will handle 1.6 million gallons per day (up from 901,000 gallons).

Town officials have also secured a permit from the North Carolina Division of Water Quality (DWQ) to discharge a limited amount of treated wastewater into the Ahoskie Creek. Those lines have already been installed, running from the plant east on Johnny Mitchell Road and then turning alongside the railroad track to the creek.

Additionally, the plant will include an administration building, which will also house the plant’s laboratory. That lab is needed to perform daily tests required on the treated wastewater.

Another part of the project is installing a forced main sewer line from the Everette Street pump station to Powellsville. That line is currently being installed along Jernigan Swamp Road south of Ahoskie. It will turn east on Williford Road, then north on Center Grove Road to Powellsville. That neighboring town just across the line in Bertie County is currently involved in a wastewater project to serve its residents. Ahoskie’s new plant will treat that wastewater.

Meanwhile, the current plant’s 32-acre wastewater lagoon, capable of handling 98 million gallons, will remain in service.

Constructed in 1988 at a cost of $4.4 million, Ahoskie’s existing wastewater treatment plant has its limitations. Thusly, the DWQ has allowed the town to operate under a Special Order of Consent and ordered Ahoskie officials to upgrade and expand its wastewater treatment plant. The new plant is scheduled to be in operation by January of 2011.

To pay for the project, the Ahoskie Town Council, at its May, 2009 meeting, approved the issuance of up to $9,464,000 in a General Obligation Wastewater Bond at an interest rate that shall not exceed 5.5 percent.

In addition to the wastewater bond funding, the town secured $1 million grants each from USDA-Rural Development and the North Carolina Rural Center; a $3 million grant from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund; $2.37 million from a loan increase (from a 2007 Bond Referendum) from USDA-Rural Development and a Community Development Block Grant in the amount of $250,908.

In addition to those funds, the town put up $500,000 from its coffers. Ahoskie will also use the tap fees paid by the town of Powellsville to help fund the construction project.