Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

TOP STORY >>$12M sewer plant opens

Leader staff writer

A $12 million plant that took a year to build is now treating all the wastewater in Cabot.

The plant went into full operation early Friday morning, and in the words of Tim Joyner, an engineer and the general manager of Cabot WaterWorks, “It’s running like a champ.”

The new plant replaces one about 15 years old that never really operated correctly. Early on, the old plant was said to be too large for a bedroom community of about 10,000 where few were at home during the day.

The microorganisms that broke down the wastes starved because there was too little at the plant to feed them. Then it was too small for a population of 20,000 and growing. And always it was watched closely by the Arkansas Department of En-vironmental Quality, where soon after it opened in 1992, tests showed that the water released from and ultimately into Bayou Meto was often not as pure and state and federal law says it must be.

The new facility took a little more than a year to build. The Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission that runs the city utilities broke ground in late summer 2006.

J.M. Park, commission chairman, said then that starting the new plant was 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.”

In September 2005, about four months after the commission was formed, 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 and community center that have been open about a year.

The actual construction of the new sewer plant cost about $10 million.

Prep work before building could begin, including filling in a pond and hauling away sludge, cost $1.1 million.

Engineering fees were $1.7 million, leaving $3.7 million of the $16.5 million voters approved for the entire sewer system to demolish the old plant, build roads on the site and rehab the collection system to prevent rain water from getting into lines and being treated at the new plant.

Max Foote Construction of Mandeville, La., was the building contractor. Vernon Williams with USI Consulting Engineers and Jeff Keller with Burns & McDonnell oversaw the construction to make sure the new plant does not have any of the problems of the old one.

The old plant was built to handle 1.8 million gallons of wastewater a day. The new one will treat six 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.

Heavy equipment has turned the construction site into a large mud hole, but by late spring when the grand opening is tentatively set, it should be dry, with a paved road, fencing and landscaping.

The commission wants it to not only work but look like something residents can be proud of.

They are so confident that the plant will perform well that Bill Cypert, commission secretary, has said he will call the press to take a picture of him dipping a glass of water for drinking as it dumps into the ditch beside the railroad track.

Joyner is also confident that the new plant will perform as it should, but he says Cypert will want to wait at least two weeks for his demonstration until all lab results are back on the first specimens taken from the plant.

“All the initial tests look good,” he said. “We haven’t gotten all the lab results back yet, but everything we’ve done in house looks good.”