Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

TOP STORY >>Work will soon start on plant in Cabot

Leader staff writer

The Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission broke ground Monday morning for a multi-million sewer treatment plant to replace the old plant that has kept the city in trouble with the state almost from the time it went into operation in 1992.
J.M. Park, chairman of the new commission that has been running water and wastewater since the first of the year, called starting the new plant the first big step forward the commission has made.

“We think we’re on the way,” Park said. “This is going to open the door to us being able to accommodate more of the growth in Cabot.” The city is under a consent order from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to come into compliance with the requirements of its permit to operate a sewer treatment plant. The commission knows that if the permit requirements are not met by the end of 2007, the city will face fines that will make the $10,000 and $8,000 fines it has received in the past two years seem completely insignificant. But Park and Cabot WaterWorks general manager Tim Joyner have a phrase they like to use when talking about the new treatment plant. “We’re under budget and ahead of schedule.”

In September 2005, city voters approved 927-187 extending an existing one-cent sales tax to pay for the new sewer plant and several other projects in the city including the animal shelter that opened recently and the community center that will open this fall. The actual construction of the new sewer plant will cost about $10 million, Joyner said. Prep work before building could begin, including filling in a pond and hauling away sludge, was set at $1.1 million. Engineering fees are $1.7 million, which leaves about $3.7 million of the $16.5 million voters approved for the entire sewer system to rehab the collection system.

Joyner said workers with Max Foote Construction, Mandeville, Louisiana, which will build the plant, will make sure they complete parts of the project that could be held up by bad weather before the weather gets bad. Vernon Williams with USI Consulting Engineers and Jeff Keller with Burns & McDonnell will oversee the construction to make sure the new plant does not have any of the problems of the old one, Joyner said.

The old plant was built to handle 1.8 million gallons of wastewater a day. The new one will treat 6 million gallons a day. To keep the plant in compliance even when it is deluged with infiltrated rain water, it will have a peak wet weather treatment flow of 16.4 million gallons a day. Park said many of the city’s sewer mains are maxed out and it is almost certain that a new plant will be needed on the west side of town within the next 10 years.

The commission has never promised to not raise rates in the future, but the sales tax has kept them down for the time being and the new treatment plant is expected to be completed on schedule. Park says the commission he heads works better together than any group he has ever served with and together they will manage the city’s sewer problems to accommodate growth as well as ensure city residents a long term source of water. “We’re not going to get there overnight, but we’ll get there,” he said.