Council Ponies Up $$ for Water

Contributed by: Ann Hinch on 12/15/2006

Rapid population growth, combined with aging facilities, led to a couple of water-related decisions on the part of Lenoir City council at its Dec. 11 meeting.

The first was for councilmen to give their blessing borrowing $1,150,800 from the state's Revolving Loan Fund at a 1.6-percent interest rate, for the first phase of upgrades to the LCUB (Lenoir City Utilities Board) wastewater treatment plant. Though the city must sign the loan, it's LCUB paying it back.

Such upgrades include adding a belt filter press. Right now, the plant uses drying beds for waste sludge. LCUB Wastewater Manager Greg Jones explained a press will speed this process and allow the plant to handle a larger volume of waste each day.

This wok should be finished by November 2007, with bids for second-phase work being taken at that time. The second will add an oxidation ditch to the plant, increasing its size for perhaps the first time since construction in 1968. (A ditch is used to stir sludge in order to increase activity of microorganisms feeding on its harmful organics.)

The current loan is only for the first phase; roughly another $7 million will be needed for the second phase, which may also include general rehabilitative upgrades to the 38-year-old plant. Jones said over the years, parts such as pumps, motors and clarifiers have been replaced as needed, but there have been no major overhauls.

"That's the whole thing we're operating toward," he said, adding the state has imposed a deadline of January 2009 for completion.

Currently, the plant is designed to handle two million gallons per day and its load is only 1.1 million gallons. What brought on the state's order to upgrade, Jones said, is the plant has problems handling a higher concentration of organic human waste because of population increases.

A single oxidation ditch will increase capacity to three million gallons. At some point in the not-too-distant future, Jones said LCUB plans to add a second ditch, taking capacity to four million gallons.

"Hopefully, it'll be 10 to 15 years down the road," he said, adding the current loan should not increase rates for LCUB customers. "But if we continue to grow like we have, it may be five to eight years down the road."

The second water-related vote of council was to equally split the cost of a $15,000 hydraulic study of the downtown water system. With approximately one-third of Lenoir City's hydrants providing inadequate water pressure for fire hoses, council and LCUB are partnering on the study, to be completed in three months by Lamar Dunn & Associates of Knoxville.

This will allow LCUB to establish a master plan for water-line replacement, Jones said, which he has been working on with his general manager, Fred Nelson, Fire Chief Richard Martin and City Administrator Dale Hurst. He said the study will also make it possible to apply for grants.

"It may take three years, five years" for the work, Jones added. "We don't know."

Councilman Eddie Simpson noted water-line replacement on the Rock Springs Road loop this year was necessary as it was considered the worst in Lenoir City. The work has drawn criticism, since Mayor Matt Brookshire's home is located nearby.