Forrest outlines $3 million plan for pipes, new plant

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

In a rapid-fire presentation, Eureka Springs Public Works Director Robert Forrest announced Monday evening he wants to build a $2.2 million wastewater treatment plant, replace 20 miles of city sewer lines, increase his department's staff and start a clean up of Leatherwood Creek.

And he says he can save the city millions of dollars while he is doing all this work.

He started his power point presentation by saying he wants "to have a good relationship with the town, the city council, the mayor and the people. I am here to inform the people of what is going on in the public works department.

"I am coming to you with a plan to protect the public health and environment, preserve the integrity of the historic district, reclaim our environment and turn our waste water treatment plant into a water pollution control facility. What we have now isn't working."

Forrest started with explaining a "pipe busting" program to replace water and sewer lines with minimum amounts of digging.

In principal, a machine and a chain are used to pull an 8-inch line of polyethylene pipe through an existing 6-inch line "busting it" as it pulls through. The old line does not have to be removed.

Forrest said the city has 29 miles of collection lines and approximately 20 miles needs to be replaced.

"It would cost $7,370,880 to replace that pipe from open trenches," he said. "If the city bought the equipment for $189,000 and spent a maximum estimate of $476,535 on labor and materials, the total would be $665,535.

"It would take 18 to 22 months to replace the lines with our own crew.

"If we had to bid out the work, it would take 7 to 10 years and cost $10,560,000. We could do it for $665,535."

As the small audience thought about those numbers, Forrest moved on to the bigger problem, the wastewater treatment plant.

"In the past 10 years, the city has spent over $7 million in that plant and collection system," he said. "Since January of 2002, more than 50 non-compliance reports have been filed with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ). You have spent $7 million for a plant that won't work.

"You have been paying $24 per gallon to treat that wastewater and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) says you should be paying $1.96 to $5 a gallon for treatment in a plant that treats 1 million gallons per day (MGD)."

Pointing to consultant Marilyn Still of Guthrie, Okla., Forrest said, "We can design and build you a 1MGD plant for $2.2 million. Consulting engineers would cost you $4,824,515 for the same plant."

He turned the presentation over to Still and she explained how the new treatment system would work, in the same location on Highway 24 North where the current plant sits beside Leatherwood Creek.

"We would do the work in three phases," she said. "The first phase includes a system called Sequential Batch Reactor-Intermittent Cycle Extended Aeration System (SBR-ICEAS) or SBR for short.

"There would be three or four open tanks. One or two would aerate the liquid as it comes into the plant. Microorganisms would help dissolve the solids.

"In the second tank, the solids would be allowed to settle out. In the third tank, clear water is held over what is left and skimmed off to be treated with an ultraviolet disinfection system before the water is discharged into the creek.

"There is a very low odor factor with this system," she said with a smile. "I would say it would smell like a farm rather than a sewer plant.

"When we get phase one completed, the quality of the water discharged into the creek will exceed all state and federal requirements. Within a year, the remediation (cleaning up) of the creek will begin."

She said operation costs would be cut by 40 to 50 percent in phase one, particularly saving on the amount of electricity needed to run six or seven pumps instead of the 24 that are used now.

Still said the savings would "probably pay for phase two and phase three."

Forrest came back into the discussion.

"I have $1.5 million to build this plant," he said. "There is money from bond issues in 2000 and 2002 which hasn't been used. The city has a depreciation fund with $560,000 in it.

"We have almost all the money we need already on hand. We won't have to raise rates, we won't have to have a bond issue or get a loan."

Still estimated it would take 12 to 16 months to build phase one of the plant, after all of the approvals are given by ADEQ.

She said the majority of the plant would be above ground and very little digging would be required.

She said 10 plants of this type have been built in Arkansas in the last 10 years and all are operating well.

Still, Forrest and Mayor Kathy Harrison visited a plant of this type in Booneville.

Still said phase two of the project would include assessing the old plant for structural integrity.

"Some of the tanks may be renovated and used for storm water holding. You will probably have more capacity than you will ever need. This plant has been in service for more than 50 years and it is worn out."

She said the two buildings could be converted to shop and storage space. The original stone pump house could be cleaned out and possibly used as a museum, archiving the history of water treatment in the city.

Phase three would be the cleanup of Leatherwood Creek and the possible sale of water from the treatment plant for use by golf courses, agricultural concerns or industries needing cooling water.

"It could be purified through the use of a reverse osmosis system to a level of purity sufficient for aquifer recharge," Still said. "We could possibly affect the quality and quantity of some of the lower springs in town."

Forrest had been asked to bring his street paving plan for this year to the meeting, but he does not have a comprehensive plan ready.

He said he is going to repair Frontage Road, Thunder Road and pave Lower Wall St.

"When I first got here, we had a huge rain and water was running knee deep down Main Street," he said. "I didn't know what I had gotten into. I will address the runoff on Main Street this year.

"When I look at a street that needs repair, I am going to look at runoff, the utilities, the water and sewer lines underneath. We are going to repair everything at once so that when a street is done, it is done for five or 10 years.

"I will bring a good five year plan to the city council, but it will take me a while to get it ready," he said.

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