Among area agencies, the Yadkin Valley Sewer Authority is still a “young” enterprise, just in its sixth fiscal year, but this doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of work being done with a large amount of grant funding coming it to help pay for those projects.
During its February retreat, Nicole Johnston, executive director of the Yadkin Valley Sewer Authority, and Benjie Thomas of engineering firm PE, West Consultants updated the Elkin Board of Commissioners on ongoing and recently completed projects taken on by the sewer authority, which serves Elkin, Jonesville and Ronda.
One of the major issues the YVSA is finding are places where sewer lines are flowing into storm drains which then feed into local waterways like creeks and rivers, said Johnston.
“The state can fine the YVSA up to $25,000 a day that the system is in violation of its permit conditions,” she said, noting the issue is with town and DOT-owned storm drains, but the fines are given to the sewer authority. And even if the state decides not to fine the YVSA, the Environmental Protection Agency can still levy fines on the agency.
“We’ve had six spills in the last three months at the regional pump station, which handles Jonesville and two-thirds of Elkin,” Johnston said, reporting the large amount of rainfall only aggravated the situation.
“We aren’t responsible for storm drains,” she said, but the stormwater inflow is causing spills due to the cross-connections of the sewers and storm drains, therefore placing YVSA in violation of its collection system permit. “Stormwater inflow to the sanitary sewer system is not permitted under the sewer use ordinance.”
Cross-connections are found through smoke testing. If smoke fills the sewer lines and then is seen exiting through a storm drain, then it is apparent there is a cross-connection somewhere in the line, Johnston said as she showed pictures of the testing being done locally.
Town Manager John Holcomb told the commissioners that Elkin Public Works Director Robert Fuller is conducting testing of all of the town-owned storm drains to determine where they run and discharge. But Fuller said he believes most of the issues are going to be with runoff from North Carolina Department of Transportation owned roads.
“If it’s on their highway [DOT], then they are responsible [for the storm drain],” Fuller said.
The spills and other issues YVSA are facing will likely cause the cost of sewer treatment to continue to increase for its customers. “We had old pipes in the ground, and the pump station, and there is no reserve to fund the issues,” said Elkin Commissioner J.L. Lowe, who also served on the YVSA board. “We’ve had to increase every time. Every year for the last five years we had to increase it, but we try to be reasonable.
“There’s a cost of doing business, and sometimes you have to increase prices because if you don’t increase now, then it will cost more down the road,” said Commissioner Dr. Skip Whitman.
A $50,000 grant was secured to do storm drain testing in the historic Jonesville area as well.
Updates given on other projects
The authority completed two major projects in 2015 — a pump station rehabilitation costing $1.4 million and the rehabilitation of the collection system in southwest Elkin costing an additional $1.4 million.
The pump stations rehabilitation project included improvements at 14 pump stations in Elkin and Jonesville, explained Johnston, while eliminating four stations by installing 4,100 feet of new eight-inch gravity lines. Funding for the project was secured through two grants totalling $825,000, a 20-year zero-percent-interest loan for $562,995 and a $21,000 match from the YVSA.
“We have qualified for zero-percent interest loans on all our projects,” she said.
The southwest Elkin rehabilitation project also was funded through a combination of grants, loans and matching money with $600,000 being in grant funds, $675,910 in a 20-year zero-percent-interest loan and $12,200 in matching YVSA funds.
“We did a lot of camera work to find problems,” Johnston said of work done in the SW Elkin project.
The work during the project included inspection and cleaning of 39,062 feet of gravity sewers; cementitious lining of 44 manholes; rehab and repair of 92 manholes; installation of 150 manhole inserts; creation of new pipes inside existing poor lines covering 8,208 linear feet; and replacement or repairs with 1,677 feet of six-inch piping replaced with 8-inch, nine outside drops being replaced, 10 gravity pipe spot repairs and eight tap replacements.
Thomas explained to find leaks in the pipes, work crews filled the lines with smoke, then they are able to know where to seal them to make them water tight.
An additional piece to the SW Elkin project will be the replacement of a line behind Johnson Funeral Home, which is expected to begin this month. Crews are ready to begin once a final easement is worked out with property owners, Johnston said this week.
Other ongoing projects include the PGW downstream improvements project, which began in October 2015; the Weyerhaeuser system extension, which is project in conjunction with Surry County and will begin this year; and the upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant, which will start late this year or in early 2017.
The PGW project will have a price of $2,587,059, with $2,545,559 of that coming in grants and the other $41,500 in local YVSA matching funds. The idea behind the project is to support the system downstream below the PGW plant, which is an operation which runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, explained Thomas and Johnston.
It includes replacing 12-inch pipe which was installed in 1968 along Dutchman Creek with 18-inch gravity sewer lines. Also, the work, which is about 25 percent complete, includes 2,989 feet of eight-inch force main to bypass the low capacity segments of gravity sewer along Claremont Drive; improvements to two pump stations; and rehabilitation of 91 manholes.
The Weyerhaeuser project will add a pump station near the mill off N.C. 268 and Friendship Road along with 11,700 feet of force main. The county got involved in the project due to the potential to retain 134 jobs at the plant, which produces OSB board. The cost of the project is $841,200, with $85,300 coming from the county and the rest in grants.
Johnston explained Weyerhaeuser still has to do a lot of work of its own to do to be able to discharge its waste into YVSA’s system. “Our plant is not built to handle industrial discharge like Weyerhaeuser has. PGW is clear liquid,” she said of the difference in the two industries.
Thomas said this work by the company will include a system to pretreat the waste so it isn’t discolored. Prior to this, Weyerhaeuser had been “spraying its waste on its own land with very little treatment,” he explained.
The upgrades at the wastewater treatment plant will cost $1,877,510, funded through a $500,000 grant, a $1,350,500 20-year zero-percent-interest loan and $27,010 in YVSA matching money.
Work at the plant will include replacing a 35-foot clarifier from 1988 with a 58-foot clarifier; replacing the 1958 lab building; rehabilitation of equipment as well as 2,510 feet of 18-inch line; and other work such as fencing, aeration control and doors.
Future capital improvement projects which YVSA hopes to undertake will be Elm Street sewer rehab in Elkin; Gwyn Avenue sewer rehab in Elkin; Cherry Street sewer rehab in Jonesville; and sewer line and manhole rehab in both Elkin and Jonesville.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.