New Polk water plant still years away

Published 3:18 pm Thursday, February 3, 2011

Polk’s current water systems valued at $7M with no debt

Polk County remains years away from a water plant being built and that’s a good thing, according to county engineer David Odom.

The county is still waiting on a technical analysis to be completed by the N.C. Division of Water Quality in order for the reclassification of the Lake Adger Watershed to move forward. Estimates last year were for the technical review to be completed by the end of 2010 and go to the state’s environmental management commission for approval this spring. The environmental management commission will not review the technical analysis this spring. Odom said he estimates it will go to the commission sometime between six months and a year from now.

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Odom presented an update of the county’s current water system assets to commissioners during a retreat held on Jan. 24. Odom said the county’s two water systems are worth $7 million and that doesn’t county the county’s asset of Lake Adger.  Odom said the better news is the county has no debt for its two systems.

Polk County began a water system when it built the new middle school by purchasing an existing well system at the former Woodland Mills, adjacent to the school in Mill Spring. A few residential extensions have been completed off that system and the system will also provide water to a new department of social services building, currently being constructed in the same area.

Polk also has a system in Green Creek, made possible when the county agreed to allow the Broad River Water Authority (BRWA) to run a line through the county to provide water to the Inman-Campobello Water District (ICWD). The county owns the line located in Polk County and is able to purchase water from BRWA as well as extend lines to Polk County customers.  The line did not cost Polk County anything. Commissioners budget funding annually and share costs with new customers to extend service to residents and businesses that request water. Several extensions have been completed in Polk County from the BRWA line.

The county also purchased Lake Adger  in 2009 for $1.6 million, but in order to build an impoundment the size of Lake Adger today, estimates have been that it could cost anywhere from $30 million up to $75 million.

Odom said the reclassification process, which has to be completed prior to the county using Lake Adger as a water source, is moving slowly, but that is a good thing for the county. Once the state approves the project, the county will have to move forward with utilizing the source, which will mean constructing a water plant.

“It’s not in our best interest to push that,” Odom told commissioners. “Once they permit we’ll have to begin that project. Once the watershed is approved, we’ll be obligated to make continual progress.”

Odom said the next step in the process after the reclassification is conducting an environmental assessment of the water plant project. The county plans to construct a new water plant on transfer station property that the county owns. The plant will most likely be constructed as a 1 million to 2 million gallon–per–day plant with room to expand in the future as necessary. The environmental assessment will take approximately one year to complete, Odom said.

“We just will need to show progress,” said Odom. “It’s in our best interest now to let the process proceed at its natural pace.”

Reclassifying the watershed encountered some setbacks in 2009 when Henderson County denied approving a class III watershed. Polk County originally requested that the state reclassify the Lake Adger Watershed to a class IV, which would only impact land in Polk County. The state insisted, however, that the watershed be reclassified to a class III, which will also affect land in Henderson County. Polk received approval to go forward with a class III from Saluda, but Henderson County Commissioners denied approval. The state can sill reclassify the watershed without both approvals, but Polk County Commissioners want Henderson County to get on board.

During the retreat, commissioners agreed to meet with Henderson County Commissioners jointly to come to an agreement between now and the time the state environmental management commission meets.

Also at the retreat, Odom reviewed details on what Polk County currently owns in terms of water infrastructure and commented that he could not be more pleased with how the system is progressing.

“I just can’t say enough how impressed I am at how this system has grown at little cost with no debt,” said Odom.

Polk County has 18.8 miles of water lines running through the county and 66 total customers currently. The middle school system is supplied by three wells and has a total capacity of 70,000 gallons per day as well as a 75,000 water tank. The middle school system has five current customers, including one home, the middle school, two stores and a maintenance building. Future customers approved for the system include one home, the new DSS building and the agricultural center. Current useage is approximately 5,000 gallons per day.

Polk County’s BRWA system in Green Creek is referred to as Polk County Water System South.

Polk has an agreement with BRWA to use up to 660,000 gallons per day and is currently using an estimated 9,200 gallons per day. The system has 61 current customers who are connected and using water.

The county’s 18.8 miles of current water lines consists of 0.4 miles of 2 inch waterline, 1.4 miles of 6 inch waterline, 0.6 miles of 8 inch waterline, 8.9 miles of 12 inch waterline, 7.4 miles of 20 inch waterline and 0.1 mile of 24 inch waterline.

Polk has also approved a $144,000 construction bid to further extend its main waterline in Green Creek to the Peniel Road intersection off Hwy. 9. Commissioners are also currently discussing extending that line to Polk Central School, also off Hwy. 9 in Mill Spring.

Commissioners will discuss the Polk Central School line proposal during a meeting Monday, Feb. 7 at 7 p.m.