Albemarle council approves applying for capital improvement projects to bolster water, sewer systems

Published 2:24 pm Friday, April 29, 2022

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In order to help bolster its aging water and sewer infrastructure and meet the needs of future growth, the Albemarle City Council recently approved submitting applications for funding for several capital improvement projects to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

Adam Kiker of LKC Engineering spoke to council members about the projects they could apply for. He said the city could be eligible to receive funds through either the Clean Water State Revolving Fund or through the $1.69 Billion the N.C. General Assembly appropriated for water and sewer investments through the state’s allocation of the American Rescue Plan. The application deadline is May 2.

The first project would be to replace the existing 24-inch raw water line with a new 30-inch water line to carry the 12 million gallons of water per day from Badin Lake to the U.S. Highway 52 Water Treatment Plant.

As it stands, the age and condition of the existing water line, which was originally installed in 1947, “makes it a higher risk of failure,” Kiker said, noting there was a “decent break” in the line earlier this year.

The new raw water main would cost about $22 million and would begin at Old Whitney Road and terminate at the water treatment plant.

The second proposed project would replace an existing 20-inch water line on the travel lane of U.S. Highway 52 between the water treatment plant and the hospital campus, which is a source of regular leaks and breaks. A separate transmission line would be installed along Snuggs Park Road, connecting at Bethany Road and extending south to Snuggs Street. The new 20-inch line would cost about $4.5 million.

Currently, all impurities following water processing is discharged into the city’s sewer system. This can create operational challenges at the sewer plant, when combined with high flow during severe rain events.

“Whenever the water plant waste stream becomes a reasonable percentage of the flow going down the pipe, that’s when it causes you problems,” Kiker said.

So the third and final capital project would be to construct a new sludge dewatering facility at the U.S. Highway 52 water treatment plant. The new facility would cost an estimated $5 million. This would reduce the amount of water needed to be processed at the wastewater plant.

Kiker also mentioned the city could apply for two grants to fund the creation and implementation of an asset management plan for both its water and sewer systems. These documents, which would be in digital form, would map out where the utilities are located, along with assessing the age, condition and replacement costs of each system. The cost would be $150,000-$200,000 for each utility.

“If you had a water break in the middle of the night, you actually would be able to pull your phone up, and it would know where you were. You would be able to see the pipe, click on it, it would tell you everything you would need to know about that pipe including which valves to turn off,” Kiker said.

When it comes to applying for the projects, Kiker told council that Albemarle would be unlikely to receive funds during this grant period because the city falls under the category of not being distressed or at-risk. Several other municipalities, deemed to be in worse condition, would receive priority. But if the city was able to acquire the funds for the asset management plans, that would increase its odds in the future for receiving funds for various projects.

Following discussion, Mayor Pro Tem Martha Sue Hall made the motion for council to pass all five resolutions, giving the city the go-ahead to apply for the three capital projects and the two grants. It was unanimously approved.

Funding announcements should be expected in July, Kiker told council.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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