Work continues recently on the regional sewage treatment plant on the Holston River in Weber City. Photo by David Grace.
WEBER CITY — A regional sewage treatment plant on the Holston River is about 65 percent complete, but construction is running behind schedule.
Originally slated for completion April 15, the Scott County Public Service Authority’s 1.25 million-gallon-capacity addition to the treatment plant in Weber City may not open until the summer.
The contractors requested a 45-day extension, said PSA Executive Director Dan Danko. It may be completed by the end of April, but tests have to be run before it can be used, he said. Those tests can make an 18-month construction schedule extend to 19 or 20 months, he said.
Workers are currently installing the machinery that will run the plant and the electrical conduits that run back and forth from the structures at the facility.
“Once you get the electrical in, you still have to work out the bugs,” he said.
It may be June or July before the plant can begin handling Gate City’s waste, Danko said.
Once it is handling PSA and Gate City sewage, customers will have some time before water rates start reflecting the cost of the plant improvements.
The $7.2 million plant improvement project will increase capacity from 2.5 million gallons of sewage to 3.75 million.
The project, updating and enlarging the 1984 plant, was started in October 2006.
A new oxidation ditch is the largest addition to the plant along the Holston. Construction used 40 tons of rebar and 2,351 cubic yards of concrete to create the structures that will separate solid waste that will be dried and hauled to the landfill.
Construction inspector Dan Elsea said Thompson and Litton Engineering of Wise won the bid to construct the additional components of the plant.
The new concrete oxidation ditch sits empty next to the one that currently cleans and filters PSA sewage.
“This was originally built as a regional sewage treatment plant,” Danko said.
Until this year, Gate City has run its own plant.
When it is up and running, sewage from Gate City will begin flowing through pump stations that cost more than $800,000 to the plant on the Holston.
Depending on the amount of rainwater runoff that enters the Gate City sewage system, the amount of sewage flowing into the plant could more than double with the addition of Gate City’s waste.
The new plant will have more than enough capacity to handle it, Elsea said.
And while parts of the treatment plant are new, the older sections are still going to be used, he said.
When the new equipment can be turned on, the old parts will still be used, Elsea said.
The old oxidation ditch will become the new aerobic digester. The old clarifiers will be used as new sludge thickeners.
“The whole operation will be incorporated into the new one,” he said.
That won’t be the case for Gate City’s treatment plant, Danko said.
“The plant does well what it was designed to do, but it cannot handle ammonia,” Danko said.
Gate City got an estimate on the cost of closing the plant.
“It was hugely expensive,” said Gate City Mayor Mark Jenkins.
Instead, city planners are considering transforming the sewage treatment plant into a septic waste disposal site.
There have been estimates that as many as 2,500 homes in Scott County have septic systems, Jenkins said. Those all have to be pumped and emptied sometime, and the city could provide a place to do that.
Any revenue gained from such a site could help offset the city’s half of the cost of the new regional plant.
Gate City is responsible for half of the $3.7 million Rural Development loan and $2.6 million Virginia Resources Authority loan.
Sewer users outside Gate City will see their cost go up to $20.50 for the first 2,000 gallons of water and $9 for each additional 1,000 gallons used each month.
“We’ve been raising it a little at a time,” Danko said.
In Gate City, the sewer board sets the rates. They were raised from 90 percent of a person’s water bill to 100 percent to try and raise enough revenue to cover the city’s obligations, Jenkins said.