Water authority considers Dickson County plant as model

Photo by Kristen Luther
Watauga River Regional Water Authority (WRRWA) Director, Michael Hughes, begins a meeting of the authority Monday evening. The WRRWA considered Dickson County as a model for a new water treatment facility.

Proposal request seeks firm to perform water study

By Julie Fann
star staff
The Watauga River Regional Water Authority (WRRWA) on Monday considered the Dickson County water intake and treatment plant located west of Nashville as a potential model, as members move forward in a plan to establish a more dependable source of drinking water for Carter County.
Elmo Lunn, chairman of the Dickson County Water Authority, presented slides of the facility and discussed details and advantages of the system, which, he said, cost approximately $29 million. At the Dickson County plant, individual membranes the size of a piece of angel hair pasta withdraw and filter roughly five million gallons of water a day out of the Cumberland River.
County Executive, Dale Fair, held a portion of a membrane in his hand for members of the authority and those attending the meeting to see. "It is amazing what technology can now do," he said.
To meet costs of the system, Lunn said Dickson County customers pay $5 more on their monthly water bill, an approximate 19.5 percent rate increase across the board.
The WRRWA has tentatively proposed a 50 cent connection surcharge to customers, which will result in yearly revenue of $114,000, an amount that is projected to temporarily cover the salary of Michael Hughes, who was hired as the authority's new director in June, and other costs, including legal expenses. Hughes receives an annual income of $52,000.
The authority also approved its first budget for fiscal year 2003-04, which lists total expenditures at approximately $95,216.24 and projected total revenue from surcharges at $114,000. Total revenue minus fixed and projected expenses equals $18,783.76, according to the budget spreadsheet.
Besides anticipated surcharges, the authority is relying on federal grants to fund the project. Fair thanked Elizabethton Director of Planning and Development, David Ornduff, for his efforts in securing a $900,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency which was recently approved.
The authority also unanimously approved a proposal request for an engineering firm to perform a comprehensive water system improvement study. The study will fulfill a portion of a three-part permit request the WRRWA must submit to the Army Corps of Engineers, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).
"This is a big deal - for an engineering company to do a master plan. It's not to do anything other than study how much water we need and the best way of serving this entire county," Hughes said following the meeting. Results of the study will allow the authority to make definite decisions regarding the project, including a source of water and location for the plant, as well as an approximate amount of water to withdraw from that source.
The proposal lists nine qualifications an engineering firm must meet to be considered as a candidate to perform the study, which consists of a complete analysis of existing water systems and projected water needs for Carter County for the next 50 years.
A subcommittee will review applications submitted by engineering firms, and the deadline for applications has been set for Oct. 24. WRRWA subcommittee members are Olen Pate, of the South Elizabethton utility district; Kayo Gentry, of the Siam utility district; Dale Colbaugh, of the Stoney Creek (First) utility district, and Charles Stahl, Elizabethton City Manager.
Members of the WRRWA, in addition to those already listed, are Dale Fair, chairman; Richard Tester, Hampton utility district; C.W. McMahan, Roan Mountain utility district, and Jim Williams of the North Elizabethton Water Cooperative.
The WRRWA was formed in 2001 and former County Executive Truman Clark served as the first chairman. Due to a rapidly diminishing supply of spring water, the authority was formed to establish a larger source of drinking water for the region.