08/24/06 — Eureka gets ready for new sewer project plan

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Eureka gets ready for new sewer project plan

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on August 24, 2006 2:03 PM

EUREKA -- State officials told members of the Eureka Town Board this week that they should abandon their existing sewer system and install a new system to carry solid waste.

The state Clean Water Management Trust Fund awarded the town a $923,000 grant his week to improve the town's sewer system. Leaks had begun the cost the town so much that last year some residents circulated a petition seeking to disband the town.

At a meeting Tuesday night, Dempsey Benton, chief deputy secretary for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, met with town board members and state Rep. Louis Pate and state Sen. John Kerr.

Mayor Steve Howell said that representatives of the Wooten Co., which was hired to fix the system, are recommending the town fill in the old sewer lines with concrete and install completely new lines.

The old lines are in even worse shape that had been thought, Howell said. Video cameras showed recently that water infiltration into the sewer lines is coming in so fast that he called them "gushers," instead of mere leaks.

"I had no idea this sewer system was in the shape it's in," said Howell, whose said his sewer bill this month was $70.

Howell said Wooten is recommending the town build a "step system," in which each household would have a holding tank and pump that would send the waste to either of two pump stations that would force them on to the sewer plant for treatment.

The new system could cost $35,000 more than the town would spend if it just fixed the existing lines, Howell said, but he noted that Wooten officials have said that the old lines could be in the same shape they are in now five years from now.

Benton said he has seen step systems used in other towns in similar situations and they it represents a good alternative for Eureka residents.

"It lets you use smaller lines, because you're using small pumps to put it under pressure," he said. With many of the existing lines located at a depth of eight feet below ground and with the water table only four feet down, he said, the step system would allow the town to put its lines at a more shallow depth than the high water table.

"It's workable. But it does require maintenance. Even a smaller system needs regular periodic attention," Benton said.

He said whether the town contracts with someone with an operator's license or contracts another town, the step system will need more attention than just someone being on call.

Benton said the leaks in the existing sewer lines spotted by the video cameras are permitting large amounts of water into the system. That is driving customers' bills up, he said.

"These seven places where the water is just flooding in, it's flowing so strong it's like there's pressure to it. I'd say there's a broken water line somewhere," Benton said.

He said for the past two years every month's flow has been more than should be expected from a system with only 115 customers. The average system should have 16,000 to 20,000 gallons a day flow through it, he said, but Eureka's flow is almost three times that much.

"Some of it is ground water. But with the gushers, that water is coming from some other source than ground water. You're fortunate you have gotten this $923,000. Wooten is ready to get you ready to go to contract in the next 35 to 40 days."

The town has also started a process to install a spray system for land application until a permanent solution is found, but even that could take six months to get ready, Benton added.

No matter what system the town implements as a permanent solution, it is going to have to go forward with fixing the inflow and infiltration problem, said Benton.

"We've got an idea of where you are, and we'll be glad to work with Wooten," he said. "The step system is a good alternative. That's your decision. But you're at a crossroad. You've got to decide and move on."