Million-dollar equipment failure for Loudon Utility

Vicky Newman-News-Herald

The Loudon Utilities Board is investigating what actions may be taken in the wake of the failure of an expensive piece of equipment. An auger, used to dry solids at the wastewater treatment plant, needs to be replaced.

The sludge dryer was purchased eight years ago and cost $800,000, Lynn Mills, LUB general manager told the LUB board March 11. Mills said five separate leaks have been found and repaired.

Workers became aware of a potential problem when they noticed oil had been leaking and called for an inspection, Mills said.

It was through the inspection that the leaks were discovered.

"The repairs are only a temporary fix to the problem," Mills said. "Other utilities have experienced similar problems with the dryer, and they had to replace the unit."

The solids are used to create a fertilizer product that can be sold to farmers.

The cost for replacing the dryer is in the million dollar range.

LUB chairman John Hutton asked if the equipment might have been defective from the beginning and if any warranty was in place.

"That is expensive equipment not to last any longer than that," Hutton said.

Engineer John Davis said he would check on replacement possibilities with other companies.

Mills said Friday the city had determined the equipment originally was bought from U.S. Filter, a company that since has been sold to Siemens.

Siemens representatives made the repairs, Davis said. The city is contacting other municipalities about their problems with the equipment and attempting to talk with original installers to see if perhaps the equipment had a warranty.

"We may have to shut this equipment down and start taking the sludge to the landfill if it starts leaking again," Mills said.

"What they have done seems to be holding up," Davis said. "So far it looks like it would hold up. The Siemens people seemed to think it would get us by until we figured out what to do."

Other action from Monday
The LUB also learned that the cost of natural gas delivered to the city gate was $3.65 per dekatherm, which converts to a rate of $1.03 for gas billed after April 1. Board members heard a report on the vehicle replacement program with Jacky Jones Ford Lincoln Mercury.

The LUB has participated in the program a year.

Most of the trucks will be exchanged for new models at no additional cost, according to Mills.
Some trucks will require an addition $400 to trade, and Ford Escapes and Fusions will require an additional $1,300 to $1,500 because of model changes.

Mills said the program, which allows the city to trade well-kept utility vehicles for new models each year at no cost or low cost, has proved cost effective.

"Used vehicles are hot properties right now, and they usually have them sold before we even turn them in," Mills said.