07/13/08 — Mount Olive plans upgrades for old water, sewer systems

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Mount Olive plans upgrades for old water, sewer systems

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 13, 2008 2:00 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Adjustments in the town's water and sewer rates will allow Mount Olive to do something it has lacked the resources to do for many years -- undertake a regular schedule of maintenance for its aging water and sewer systems.

Residents won't see any large projects for the routine work. But that could change if the town receives approval of its $2.1 million grant application through the Clean Water Management Trust. It will be October before the town learns the application's fate.

"I don't know that we will get all of that, but I am cautiously optimistic that we will get at least some portion of it," Town Manger Charles Brown said.

"I think it is important that the people of Mount Olive realize the quality of water they are getting," Brown said. "It comes from aquifers 350-400 feet underground. This is water in about the purest form you can find."

He said that people will pay $1.90 at the supermarket or gourmet store for a 12-ounce bottle of water because it is advertised as coming from "deep, underground aquifers."

"That is where Mount Olive's water comes from every day," he said.

And at a cost of about $2.54 per 1,000 gallons, that comes out to about two-thousands of a cent per gallon.

The new water rates that went into effect July 1 are based on usage.

A water customer who lives alone and uses a minimal amount of water can expect to see a decrease in his or her water bill. Customers who use more water can expect to pay more.

"I think people have known for years that the town was not charging enough money to properly maintain the water and sewer systems," Brown said. "We struggled and struggled and struggled trying to figure out how to resolve that problem without putting an unnecessary burden on the water customers.

Not only is the rate fairer, it means more revenues for the water/sewer department, Brown said.

The town's new budget anticipated water revenues to be $1,067, 409 -- an increase of $336,411 over the $730,998 that would have been collected without the adjustment. Sewer revenues were budgeted at $1,112,144 up by $142,140 over the unadjusted rate revenues of $970,004.

The town has set aside $100,000 for sewer improvements and $110,000 for water projects.

The additional funds mean that the town can immediately begin necessary maintenance on the two systems, Brown said.

"The problem is we never had the funds before to do it with so we will address maintenance issues as the year goes along," Brown said. "Parts of those systems were put in around 1912 and have not had a lot of anything done to them since. Last summer we replaced some sewer lines at the bathroom at Westbrook Park where it runs into North Breazaele Avenue and it was basically tarpaper lines done back in World War II and the Depression when metal was in such short supply."

The town's water system suffers from outdated lines, some that are small galvanized pipes, he said.

"This (new revenue) puts us in a position to do badly needed maintenance on both systems," Brown said.

The town receives monthly reports from water treatment plant personnel showing the amount of water pumped and the amount billed. There usually is a discrepancy.

That discrepancy should fall between 12-15 percent. Mount Olive's has been as high as 20 percent. Some of it can be traced to flushing fire hydrants or to when the hydrants are used to fight a fire.

However, most of the blame rests on faulty and leaking water values, lines and meters.

Brown said the meters slow down as they age and fail to properly measure the water that flows through them.

"We are losing revenue and water because of those," he said.

One problem that has dogged the town for years is inflow and infiltration (I&I) in which stormwater runoff gets into the sewer system. Once in the system, the water has to be treated, placing a strain on the system and adding treatment costs.

Brown said it is a problem that probably will never be completely corrected, but one that the town wants "to take a big chunk out of."

If the grant is funded, the town will turn its attention to larger projects including a new sewer line down N.C. 55 from the old Burlington Industries plant west of town to the new wastewater treatment plant east of town.

The new line would be able to relieve the pressure on the existing line that runs through town.

Other sewer system rehabilitation would include replacement of old and inefficient manholes and replacing or sliplining sewer lines.

The water distribution system also would benefit.

Included are a new well, possibly at the town's water storage tank at the old Burlington Industries site.

The town also wants to add filtration capacity at its No. 3 well on Northeast Church Road and possibly put filters at the Burlington site as well. Currently, there are four filters at the No. 3 well.

"We would like to double the capacity to enable us to process more water," Brown said.

Water is not an issue for the town -- even during last year's drought the town had water to sell to Goldsboro had it been needed, he said.

"We had plenty of water, the problem would have been getting the water treated," he said.

That, he said, is where the additional filtration capacity would come into play.

"That would also be an asset if we had a large (water) user looking at the industrial park," Brown said. "We'd like to be sure we could supply the water needed if an industry decided to come to Mount Olive."

Brown said the town has two connections with the Wayne water districts, but he would like to add another on Thunder Swamp Road.

"That would give us the capability of selling or buying water from the Wayne water districts and all the way to Goldsboro if need be," he said.

On the other side of town, Mount Olive's water system is only about 1,000 feet from the Duplin system. A tie-in there would create a water line from Castle Hayne to Goldsboro.

The plan to rehabilitate the sewer system has been submitted to state and the town is working with engineers on a plan for the water system.

It includes replacing water meters, fire hydrants and using a global positioning system to locate all the town's water values.

"We have (Special Projects Director) Maylon Weeks who has been here 43 years and pretty much knows where they all are, but we would like to have that information stored so if at some time he decides he wants to completely retire that we would have it," Brown said. "All of these things have been needed to be done for a good while and now we are just reaching the point where I think we have the financial ability to move foreword."

Meanwhile, the town's new wastewater treatment plant is operational.

Even with the large volume of effluent being turned out it is the best quality of water it has ever produced, Brown said.

"It is not drinking quality, but it's close -- it is probably much higher quality than what towns along the Neuse River are drawing out to treat as drinking water," he said.

Additional grading is being required for the holding pond at the plant.

The pond was built on the site of an existing hog lagoon.

Brown said it is thought that when the new holding pond was built that an old section of PVC pipe from the hog lagoon had been left. The pipe allowed some water to escape from the pond.

"Apparently that is not an uncommon problem when you go from one use to another," he said.

Brown said the problems has been resolved to the satisfaction of the Division of Water Quality and Division of Dam Safety which regulates the walls around the pond.