Sewer system construction begins this month

Published 8:36 am Tuesday, May 14, 2013

WINTON – Information please!

That was the mission of a Thursday evening session held at Closer Walk Ministries in Tunis where residents of this community on the banks of the Chowan River learned more about the pending construction of a wastewater collection system.

“We wanted to give ya’ll the opportunity to see the plans, and to get a general idea of how the work will flow,” said Hertford County Manager Loria Williams. “There will be some inconvenience down here since it’s such tight quarters, but we’ll make it as painless as we can during the construction process.”

Slade Harvin and Gary Hartong of The Wooten Company, the engineering firm under contract to the county, staged a PowerPoint presentation on the Tunis sewer system. They said the system will consist of different elements, depending on where the sewer customer resides in Tunis. Those “down the hill” will have a low pressure, grinder pump system while those “up the hill” will have a gravity-fed system. All wastewater will be pumped to a treatment facility owned and operated by the Town of Winton.

According to the project’s timetable, construction is scheduled to begin later this month. The lines, manholes and pumps are expected to be completely installed by January of next year. The water-tight system then needs to be tested for any possible leaks prior to coming online (hook-ups to residences) by March, 2014.

Officials with Sunland Builders, the project’s contractor, said they expect to begin their survey and lay-out work this week. The first major piece of the process will be the installation of the main lift station near the intersection of River Road and Tunis Road.

Harvin said the sewer lines will be small diameter pipes. That pipe size was selected because they will be buried shallower due to the high groundwater table found in Tunis due to its close proximity to the Chowan River.

“That smaller pipe will cause less disturbance during the installation process,” Harvin said.

Sewage from homes connected to the gravity-fed system will flow directly into the main lines. Those hooked to the low pressure, grinder pump system will have their sewage first collect in a small basin (basically a large barrel) buried in their yard. A small pump in each barrel and will activate once the fluid reaches a certain level, which rids the barrel of the wastewater. Those will be grinder pumps, meaning each has small blades to chop up the solids.

A question was asked about the capacity of those barrels, especially if there was a power failure.

“The barrels are roughly four foot in diameter and eight foot deep,” Harvin said. “Based on typical water demands they have about a 48-hour capacity should you lose power.”

Hartong pointed out that each will allow for emergency generator connection.

“Should you lose power you can opt to plug in a small home-use generator and pump out the barrel,” he said,

“You also need to keep in mind if there is an extended power outage, you typically will use less water, meaning less sewage, which would extend the capacity of the barrel,” Harvin noted.

In the event of a major storm where electrical service may be interrupted for weeks, Hartong said the county will be able to come in with a generator to pump out the entire system.

The barrels are encased in concrete, meaning they will not float in case of flooding that is typical at Tunis in the aftermath of major weather events. The lids are also water-tight.

All pumps and tanks are owned and maintained by the county.

It is the resident’s responsibility to make the connection between their homes and the underground barrels once the entire system has been tested and approved by the state for operation. It is required that a licensed plumber makes the connection.

All existing private septic tanks (for those connected to the county’s sewer system) will be pumped out, filled with sand and crushed. That cost will be covered by the project’s budget.

As far as re-landscaping the shoulders of the roads and private driveways and yards where the work will be performed, that duty falls on the project’s contractor.

“We’re going to make a mess at the top of the hill with that main lift station,” said Rick Williford, owner of Sunland Builders. “Down here at the bottom of the hill where most of the folks here live there’ll be a minimal disturbance. What we do tear up we promise to make it right to the best of our ability, hopefully make it better than it was.”

Jimmy Daniels, an Ahoskie native, will serve as the project’s Superintendent for Sunland Builders. Also on site will be Bryan Lewis, Ahoskie’s retired Public Works Director who now serves as an associate with the Wooten Company.

There was some discussion over those who did not originally sign-up for the sewer service and pay a tap on fee. Additionally, questions about billing popped up, to include what would be a special fee for those hooked to the sewer system that were not on the county’s public water system.

“We’ve had some discussion about those just now deciding to connect to the sewer service,” said Williams. “My off-the-cuff answer to that would be we would need to get further along in the project to see how things are progressing with the grant money; see if there is revenue left over. At that point we could certainly look at these on a case-by-case basis. The question that remains unanswered would be if the (county) commissioners would allow those coming in late to this project the same sign-up fee paid by those when we first started this project. According to the language of this project’s ordinance, the cost goes up extremely thereafter, but because construction is still going on you might be able to connect for the original $200 tap-on fee.”

Williams said those coming in late need to contact her immediately.

For those not on the county’s water system and have signed up for sewer would pay an estimated monthly bill, which will be higher than those connected to county water.

“Without being connected to county water there’s no way to meter the sewage accurately,” Hartong noted. “In those cases there will be a flat fee of $59 per month.”

Those with county water will be billed $51 per month for sewer service on the first 2,000 gallons of water usage. There is a $4 charge for every additional 1,000 gallons.

Following the meeting, one Tunis resident, speaking with the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, urged county officials to consider a new sign-up period for those on private wells to connect to the county’s water system to ensure accurate billing for the sewer service. They asked for the water hook-up to be offered at the original sign-up rate.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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