Tryon mayor: Delayed mountain water source has cost town $10-15k

Published 8:55 am Friday, April 15, 2011

Tryon officials are concerned about costly delays in getting the town’s mountain water source online.
“I feel that this issue should have been resolved months ago,” said Tryon Mayor Alan Peoples. “To the best of Tryon’s ability, through the company we hired, working with the Army Corp of Engineers and the (N.C.) Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), we should have completed this project in 2010.”
The town’s water plant upgrade, which includes upgrades to a mountain water source the town hopes to use along with its current Lake Lanier source, has encountered numerous delays.
The most recent delay has been the trout-spawning season, which has prevented work from being completed. The season will be over tomorrow, April 16.
Last December, the town received a stop work order on the mountain water intakes after the Tryon Garden Club expressed concern over silt created by the work. 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.
Tryon Garden Club officials said in January the club wanted to ensure the work was done properly. An agreement was worked out for the town to place sand bags, which required further permits from the Corps of Engineers.
“I am very concerned with regard to the water situation in the town of Tryon. The move by the leadership of Pearson’s Falls has cost our town revenue, probably in excess of $10,000, perhaps upwards of $15,000,” Peoples said.
The water plant rehabilitation is 99-percent complete, with only approximately two days work left to get the mountain water source online.
According to Tryon Town Manager Justin Hembree, the town has spent approximately $12,000 on permitting and legal costs regarding upgrades to the mountain water.
In addition, the town is spending approximately $5,000 per month pumping water from the lake, Hembree said. Pumping costs will be reduced once the mountain water source is available because that source is gravity fed.
The town spent $26,000 in fiscal year 2009-2010 pumping water out of Lake Lanier. Using the town’s mountain water source is expected to cut the amount of water needed to be pumped out of the lake in half, which will also cut the costs to pump in half, according to Peoples.
Tryon began rehabbing its water plant in 2009, with estimates that the project would be complete in 2010. The town financed approximately $3 million for the project.
The town’s water plant, located off Carolina Drive, first went online in 1988. The rehabilitation project was required for the plant to meet current state guidelines.
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 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 the town 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.
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 upgrades have also included replacing eight chemical feed pumps and fixing the old water plant roof, among other work.
Hembree said he is unsure when the final work can proceed as permits still have to be approved by the Corps of Engineers. The permit has been with the Corps of Engineers since the end of January.
Peoples said this week he is frustrated with the delays and the costs to the town. He said extra attorney fees have been necessary, as well as costs associated with the town’s civil engineer in York, S.C., who has had to travel to the area a minimum of three times to complete work but was prevented each time from doing so.
“Nobody did this intentionally. We were trying to get water for our town,” Peoples said. “My customers are paying money they shouldn’t have to pay and I have a problem with that.”

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