Leaders say new waste water treatment plant to be ready in 3-5 years

Photo by Dave Boyd
Michael Hughes, Watauga River Regional Water Authority (WRWA) director, presents the executive directorÕs report during MondayÕs monthly meeting. Hughes discussed Hampton and Roan Mountain as possible locations for a new water treatment facility.
By Lesley Jenkins
Star Staff
Members of the Watauga River Regional Water Authority (WRWA) on Monday discussed the possibility of building a waste water treatment plant in Hampton or Roan Mountain within the next 3 to 5 years.
Choosing a location to build the plant will depend on community acceptance and need, according to Michael Hughes, authority director. Hughes said a number of public hearings will be held prior to any final decisions being made.
Hampton and Roan Mtn., according to local leaders, are areas that have potential for community development and growth if a treatment plant were to be installed in either location.
Presently, septic tanks are being used to control waste water. Hughes said the method is inadequate, especially for businesses and cited Bob's Dairy Land as an example. The restaurant's septic system can't maintain the amount of water and waste to operate the business, so business owners are now forced to serve food on paper plates.
A treatment plant will also benefit the environment, Hughes said. Septic tanks are prone to failure if there is an excessive amount of waste. Waste at times surfaces to the ground, and, at other times, is absorbed into the water table, he said.
WRWA members also discussed a waste water treatment plant spurring economic development in the area it is located. If the plant was located in Hampton, economic development would boom along U.S. Highway 19E. "It could change the county," said Hughes.
Hughes estimates that the project will cost $3-5 million and take 3-5 years to complete provided no major problems arise.
A draft of the WRWA budget was also presented to members. There was no discussion on the subject, and a final draft will be ready by next month's meeting.
Hughes also discussed two grants that are available for funding that will be discussed in more detail at the authority's next meeting on Sept. 15.
Former County Executive, Truman Clark, formed the WRWA two years ago after the city of Elizabethton submitted a request to the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw water from the Watauga River. The board is made up of local utility directors and government officials.
The WRWA seeks to withdraw approximately 12 million gallons of water a day from the Watauga River to cope with a quickly diminishing supply of area spring water.