Sewer plant repairs needed badly, Columbus says after facility tour

Published 2:23 pm Monday, November 8, 2010

Columbus Town Council members say the towns wastewater treatment plant is urgently in need of updates.

Officials took a tour of the facility during the towns October meeting and said the experience was eye opening.

Weve talked, but to actually go out and see the conditions really opened my eyes, said councilwoman Ernie Kan.

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Councilwoman Margaret Metcalf expressed her concern over the possibility that the plant would not be able to run if something breaks down.

I do think its a priority we need to talk seriously about, Metcalf said. If one area goes down it makes a hardship on everything else and something else could go down and thats frightening. I dont think it needs to be put on the back burner.

The most immediate need, council members said, is repairs to the clarifier.

Council members asked what plan the town has if the clarifier goes down prior to upgrades. Town employees answered that the town would have to hire a contractor to come in and handle the situation, then do an emergency repair and possibly pay any fines that could be associated from the state.

Last Wednesday, council members toured Hendersonvilles waste water treatment plant, which has a similar layout to that of the Columbus plant. The Hendersonville plant has been recently upgraded.

Council reviewed possible funding options to do upgrades to the sewer plant. Columbus recently got word that it did not receive grant funding from the N.C. Rural Center for the completion of a preliminary engineering report and an environmental review.

The town has discussed for some time the need to upgrade its sewer plant and has had reports done by W.K. Dickson Engineers. Brian Tripp, with W.K. Dickson has presented figures on a few occasions to the town what it could cost to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant, to upgrade the towns hospital pump station and to bring the towns fifth well online. The costs for all three projects are estimated at $3,624,900.

The town could qualify for financing and a partial grant through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The loan would be for 40 years, which did not please some council members, considering that the upgrades would be good for about the same length of time.

Columbus has considered in the past joining with the Town of Tryon and pumping sewage to Tryons wastewater treatment plant, but Columbus council has determined those costs would be too high. Town officials said for the same cost, Columbus could upgrade its own plant. They were also concerned that the joint venture would most likely not happen quickly enough. Columbus officials said recently that the towns best option is to upgrade its own plant.

Council decided to get detailed project estimates from Tripp as well as get the figures from McGill & Associates, the engineers who estimated the joint project with pumping sewage to Tryon. Council also discussed the possibility of doing upgrades in phases, with the most critical upgrades first. The town is also going to look for other grant sources for needed reports.

We need to do this now theres no question about it, said Metcalf.