Kicking the can for years

Published 10:58 pm Thursday, October 24, 2019

Work to begin dredging Columbus WWTP

COLUMBUS—Columbus officials said last week they have bought all the time they can on dredging the sludge at the wastewater treatment plant. 

Columbus Town Council met last week and approved a contract to dredge the sludge. 

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Town manager Tim Barth said the greatest need at the WWTP is the removal of sludge/grit from the aeration basin. He said the town’s engineer identified a company in Belmont, N.C. that does this kind of work. Barth said the closest company other than from Belmont was located in Virginia. 

“We contacted the company and someone came on Friday, Oct. 4 and even went out in the boat in the aeration basin to probe the sludge/grit that was n the basin,” Barth said. “They suggested using textile tubes would be the best course of action and they have submitted a quote.”

Barth said the company seems very knowledgeable and indicated they have done this type of work for a number of years. 

The company estimated they would be able to remove 40-50 percent of the sludge, which will improve the plant performance significantly and buy the town time to consider how much more it needs to get out of the basin. 

The estimate for the dredging is for $30,000 from Bio-Nomic Services, Inc. 

The estimate does not include hauling of the sludge. 

Barth said the payment would come from the sewer budget fund balance and the town does not currently have a budget for the work. 

“We need help right away,” Barth said. 

Councilwoman Margaret Metcalf asked if the town was backed up in a corner. 

Columbus Mayor Eric McIntyre said the town is backed up in a corner because this council and the ones before it did not do anything about the problem. 

Councilman Robert Williamson said he agreed with the mayor. He said every time it rains it compromises the system and this dredging is going to make the system much more efficient. 

Williamson said the problems have all been brought to the town’s attention by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. 

“We’ve been kicking the can a lot on this,” Williamson said. “If our waste water treatment plant goes down we are done. There’s no alternative.” 

Metcalf asked if the town has time to find another contractor. 

Public works director James Smith said he does not think there is any more time. He said the state could start fining the town up to $30,000 a day. 

Barth said it is very difficult to operate the plant where there is this backup of grit and sludge in the aeration basin. 

“We need to get it done pretty quickly to help the plant operate the way it should,” Smith said. 

Council approved hiring the company to dredge out a large portion of the basin.