Exeter aims to avoid DNR study

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

City hopes to fix pipes in-house with bypass elimination extension

The city of Exeter is hoping to avoid a visit from the Department of Natural Resources later this year, as it is applying for a bypass elimination agreement extension to solve some of its wastewater pipe issues on its own.

Rusty Reed, mayor of Exeter, said the city has until July 30 to send an application letter for the extension. If it is granted, the extension will allow the city to conduct a study of its wastewater pipes and fix the most troublesome spots causing the excess inflow of water.

"We plan to run a camera up the lines and see where the biggest infiltrations are coming from," Reed said. "If we get the extension, it will be for one year, and if we fix some of the more problematic areas, we should be able to manage the rest of it."

Because of old piping systems and manholes, Exeter's wastewater plant has too much rainstorm runoff water passing through its system, and by a DNR mandate, must stop the diversion of wastewater from any portion of its facility into waters of the state.

When heavy rains cause overflows in the plant, Wastewater Treatment Plant Supervisor and Operator Paul Duncan said the water is chlorinated, then dechlorinated, before being put in a tributary of Flat Creek. While the water is chlorine-treated, it bypasses much of the rest of the plant's filters, which goes against the DNR request.

Defaulting on the agreement with the DNR in April set the stage for the organization to come into the city and perform an economic study, which would likely lead to a hike in wastewater bills for residents.

However, Reed said the extension and city's effort to stop the excess inflow should put a stop to any DNR study.

"If we can get some of it fixed, we would not be in default any more and would be in good standing again with the DNR, and that would keep them from coming in," he said. "They've been very civil with us, and I think they'll accept the application and give us that year to get back into good standing."

Duncan addressed the city in April with a trio of options regarding the agreement and how to handle the excess water.

The first option involved updating the city's sanitation lines and manholes to eliminate any excess water entering the plant. Duncan said the projected cost of such a project would be about $2.5 million and lead to a $100 per month increase in customers' bills.

The second option was for the city to boost capacity at the plant, which would entail modernization, which could include building an oxidation pond and converting to ultraviolet lights. Duncan said the projected cost of this plan would be about $2 million, and would lead to an $80 increase per month to customers' bills.

The final option for the city, and the option officials eventually settled on, was to default on the agreement with the DNR.

According to Duncan, the wastewater plant normally sees about 25,000 to 35,000 gallons of water per day run through its system.

However, when a heavy rain falls, that number jumps up to about 975,000 gallons. Without bypassing that excess water, the wastewater plant would be flooded because it does not have enough capacity.

Reed said the problems with excess inflow are not as bad as previously thought, and using city equipment and city employee labor, Exeter should be able to solve many of the issues on its own.

"We can handle the cost, and it won't be that bad if we do the work ourselves," he said. "We've been in conference with the DNR, and we hope everything will turn out all right."

The Exeter Sewer Department has a total budget of $117,300 for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30.

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