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Snags on Tryon water plant rehabilitation

Upgrades to the Tryon water plant are 99 percent complete. Once the project is finished, the plant will meet new regulations and will be able to utilize both Lake Lanier water and mountain water. (photo by Leah Justice)

Upgrade project 99 percent complete
by Leah Justice
Tryon’s water plant upgrades are 99 percent complete, but the town ran into some issues related to upgrading its mountain water intakes.
Just before Christmas, contractors received a notice from the Corps of Engineers to stop work on intake repairs near Pearson Falls.
The town’s intakes are located on town property, but access to the property is through an easement from the Tryon Garden Club, which owns all the surrounding property.
The garden club expressed concern over silt created by the work.
“Our greatest concern was silt that has to be released from the dam,” said Tryon Garden Club President Carol Meeske. “The town is working very hard to correct the problem. We just wanted it done correctly.”
The Corps of Engineers required Tryon to obtain permits for four sand bags being used for the project. Work cannot be completed until the permits are obtained and approved.
Tryon Town Manager Justin Hembree said the Corps of Engineers originally approved the town’s environment assessment. The Garden Club raised concerns, so the town made an agreement with the garden club that it would place four sand bags to help control the silt, Hembree said.
A second environmental assessment was approved by the Corps of Engineers, but concerns were again raised, Hembree said. The Corps of Engineers then discovered the town needs a permit in order to place the sand bags.
Hembree said the town is now waiting on engineers to get plans to the Corps of Engineers for approval. He said the work left will only take about a day to complete.
“By finishing this work, that should allow us to complete the rehab project,” Hembree said. “I’m hoping this will be done within two months at the most because the longer it takes us to get this project done, the more it’s costing the town’s water customers.”
The rehab project was originally scheduled to be completed in April 2010, and estimates later last year were for the completion be done at the end of the year.
The upgrades began in 2009, with the project expected to take one year.
The town’s plant, located off Carolina Drive, first went online in 1988. It needed  the upgrades to meet current state guidelines. Tryon financed the approximately $3 million project.
Prior to 1988, mountain water was Tryon’s only water source, but the town abandoned the mountain water when it constructed the water plant and began using water from Lake Lanier. The town owns the lake bed of Lake Lanier and has jurisdiction over the water.
Following a drought in 2003, when the town had to impose mandatory water restrictions, officials decided while it was upgrading the water plant, it should also make changes that would allow mountain water to be available as a water source.
The turbidity of Lake Lanier and the mountain water is different, so different processing has to be done to combine the two sources. Two intakes, one on Fork Creek and another on Colt Creek, are the last of the upgrades needed in order to use both water sources. The use of mountain water should give the town at least an additional 200,000 gallons of water per day.
Upgrades already completed at the water plant include renovating the old water plant building into offices, with the downstairs of the old building converted into the chemical plant.
A new outdoor facility was also constructed, which gives the town more retention time. The building houses the flash mix and flocculation chamber. The flash mixer combines chemicals with the water and the flocculator uses chemicals to build “floc,” or clumps of  dirt, grit and sand, according to Tryon Water Plant Supervisor Betty Jones.
The upgrades have also included replacing eight chemical feed pumps and fixing the old water plant roof, among other work.