Hawkins seeks cheaper options for screening jail debris from sewer

Jeff Bobo • Feb 22, 2019 at 2:54 PM

ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County Commissioners asked two consulting engineers Wednesday to find a less expensive way to prevent jail debris flushed by inmates from clogging the Rogersville sewer system.

The plans presented to to the commission's Public Buildings Committee Wednesday by Vaughan & Melton engineers Dean Helstrom and Marios Georgiou have a price tag of at least $450,000 and include an automated conveyor system that either bags the debris or compacts it into a dumpster for easy removal.

The engineers noted that a system with manual removal of the debris from a screening system might cost half as much, but its going to open the door to additional labor costs, confined space training, TOSHA issues, and insurance liability.

How did we get to this point?

In March of 2017 three business on Main Street in Rogersville were damaged by a sewer backup caused by a clogged line attributed to debris that Hawkins County Jail inmates flushed down their toilet.

The most common items flushed were determined to be strips of cloth, either from towels, or uniforms; as well as packaging from food items that inmates keep in their cell.

As a result the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation issued orders to both the city and the county to come up with a plan to prevent future sewer line clogs and floods, and then enact that plan.

Rogersville rejects grinder without screen

Helstrom noted that there are three options open to the county, one of which is an unscreened electric grinder which would reduce solid materials into pieces about a square half inch in size.

Rogersville is opposed to the unscreened grinder option, however because that material would continue through the eight inch sewer line that leaves the jail, and could present potential issues down the line or with the city’s sewer treatment plant.

Other options involve a screen

The second, most expensive option is the grinder combined with a screen, which would also have a washing unit to remove fecal matter from the debris.

The third option eliminates the grinder and involves only the screen and the washer.

Both screen options were presented Wednesday with a conveyor system that would bring the materials up to ground level for storage until they were removed.

"It's our understanding that you may have anything from sheets to shoes to telephones — you name it," Helstrom said. "So we'll just take those, pack them, wash them, and put them in storage. The concern that we have (with no grinder) is during the wash process, because of the larger material, you may not get the fecal material out of there, which then you will have more of a potential for odor during the summer months."

Installation would involve digging down to the sewer line and building a structure to house the screening equipment.

With the automated system a conveyor mechanism brings the material up to either a bagging system, or some type of dumpster - which would be determined by the commission.

Looking for a cheaper option

Most committee members were apprehensive about price of the systems recommended by Vaughan & Melton.

The committee approved a motion by Commissioner Valerie Goins asking Vaughan & Melton to return to the Public Buildings Committee next month with less expensive alternatives.

"It's hard for me to look at this and spend $450,000 — that's the cheapest option we have here, when possibly we can do something that's a lot cheaper," Goins said. "That's what we're here for, is to try to save our county money and still work efficiently."

One option suggested by Helstrom and Georgiou would be the elimination of the grinders and automated conveyors.

"Putting a manual box screen involves someone having to go their and rake that screen a couple of times a day," Georgiou said. "It will cut the cost down to eliminate the equipment — maybe half. But, you have to look over the 15-20 year period paying someone to spend 4-5 hours there raking that stuff."

Helstrom noted that if the manual system wasn't cleared regularly and became clogged, that would back up into the jail and justice center.


Kingsport Times News Videos