Big Springs water project remains on track

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Elizabethton public works officials are hoping that renovations to the Big Springs Water Plant improve water quality and move the city closer to serving water customers with location-specific water sources.
   "Previously, if we had a problem in one area, it affected other areas of the system," said Ted Leger, director of Public Works. "We are trying to get to a point where we have dedicated water sources."
   Leger identified three phases of the $2.3 million Big Springs project.
   * Replacement of the plant's water filter media which has been completed.
   * The construction of a facility that will house a pre-treating process designed to reduce the water's turbidity, or murkiness, before it passes through the plant's existing filtration system.
   * Construction of a new 12-inch water line extending 13,000 linear feet from the Big Springs plant to the city's water tank on Max Jett Road.
   "We are about 25 percent complete on the plant, and around 50 percent complete on the waterline," said Dennis Morganstern, inspector for BWS&C, the engineering firm overseeing the project.
   Water drawn from the spring through the current gravity flow water line will be re-directed into the new facility for pre-treatment.
   When completed, Leger said the new water line will allow the plant to serve around 5,000 city water customers in the Milligan area and far western Carter County.
   The Big Springs plant pumps around 1.4 million gallons of water per day.
   Morganstern said the water line should be finished by mid-July and the entire project was expected to be done by year's end.
   Leger said that if the Watauga Regional Water Authority eventually tapped a new water source on the Watauga River, the city's major water sources -- Big Springs site along with the Valley Forge and Hampton water tanks -- could serve specific areas without burdening the entire water system.
   The city has experienced turbidity problems at the Big Springs plant for some time.
   Heavy rainfall last August created ground sedimentation in the water plant's spring source.
   Subsequently, state officials issued an order for all Elizabethton water customers to boil drinking water when the plant was found in violation of state turbidity requirements resulting from the rainfall.
   Leger felt that while the project's scope focused on the county's west side, the reduction of turbidity and the step toward dedicated water sources were beneficial to all the city's water customers.
   "We are really grateful to the citizens for their support," said Leger. "It's a project benefiting the entire system."