Sewer upgrade is key to Elm City’s future | The Enterprise
The Enterprise

Sewer upgrade is key to Elm City’s future

Posted on June 18, 2021

Local news
Mike Tolson of Mack Gay Associates addresses the Elm City Board of Commissioners on the town's water and sewer systems on Tuesday.

Drew C. Wilson | Restoration NewsMedia

Mike Tolson of Mack Gay Associates addresses the Elm City Board of Commissioners on the town's water and sewer systems on Tuesday. | 252-265-7818

ELM CITY –– A rehabilitation and clean-out of the sewer and storm drain system has shown real results, according to a consulting engineer working for the town.

Engineer Mike Tolson of Mack Gay Associates delivered the report to the Elm City Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

The town’s $1 million state disaster and recovery assistance grant, which runs out at the end of June, has funded the relining of some 4,000 feet of eight-inch and 1,069 feet of 10-inch terra cotta clay sewer line.

“We have also cleaned an additional 8,100 linear feet of  8-inch, 12-inch and 15-inch gravity sewer,” Tolson said.

As of Tuesday, 38 of 250 manholes in the town have been relined and rehabilitated.

Tolson said 95% of the storm drain boxes have been cleaned out.

“All of it is in really good shape,” Tolson said. “We cleaned that whole section of lines, and I am pleased to tell you that it is in very good shape and flowing very well like it needs to do. All of it has been looked at, documented and inspected, so we have got a better picture of your system than there has been in 20 years.”

Tolson said data from May indicates the corrective measures have reduced the amount of groundwater and stormwater seeping into cracks and fissures in damaged and aging clay pipes. That seepage is called inflow and infiltration, or I&I.

Tolson supplied commissioners with a graph showing two lines of data. On one was the amount of water Elm City produced and bought from the city of Wilson. On the other was the amount of water the Elm City wastewater treatment plant pumped.

“So what you want is those two lines to be as close together as you can get them,” Tolson said. “You want sewer to be not more than 10% higher than water. So for 10,000 gallons of water, you want maybe 11,000 gallons of sewer. That 10% is what you would call acceptable I&I.”

“We started this project on rehab in mid-April and we didn’t start relining any manholes or any mains until about the last six weeks,” Tolson continued. “I know it didn’t rain much that month but last month, in May, the last recorded month you have, you sold more water than you pumped sewer, and that is the first time that has happened in the last year and a half. If you made 10,000 gallons of water in the past, you’ve got some numbers in there that are five times that much of sewer that has been pumped, meaning you took on a lot of I&I in the system.”

Elm City’s growth has been throttled since the N.C. Division of Water Quality found 11 violations at the Elm City spray irrigation wastewater treatment plant in April 1998. At the time, the  town’s wastewater plant had 300,000 gallons flowing through it when it was permitted for only 130,000 gallons.

The state imposed a moratorium on new sewer hookups on Sept.1, 1998.

Tolson said the apparent decrease in inflow and infiltration is a positive sign. It’s the first step in showing the state that Elm City is getting a better handle on its wastewater system.

“We need more data, but if I can show five or six months of downward trend like that, the next thing we do is write a letter to the state and say, ‘Pursuant to the moratorium and the flows and a rehab project, and the recommendations, please look at the data we have on this. We would respectfully request that you would consider removing the moratorium,’” Tolson said.

Tolson acknowledged that April was a very dry month, but said the findings are still encouraging.

“I think it is a very positive data point,” Tolson said. “That’s very encouraging news to me, and I am pleased to present that to you. That shows that you are having some progress.”

The main contractor working with Mack Gay Associates on the sewer rehab portion of the grant is H.G. Reynolds Inc. That company has subcontracted with Tri-State Utilities and CTR Coatings for the work.

Tolson said supervisory control and data acquisition, or SCADA, equipment delivered to the town was in the process of being installed.

“That SCADA is going to give us the opportunity to know where, how and when everything’s running so we can jockey pumps on, pumps off, move storage and move the water around to wherever you need to more effectively and efficiently in the system,” Tolson said. “The whole town has needed that capability for years, and (to) finally able to get that installed and put in and get it used will be very helpful. You will be able to check all of the alarms and alerts and levels on your phone with a login that is given from the equipment operators, so it will be a handy tool to be able to maintain the system.”

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