Decision near on Big Springs water treatment plant

By Bob Robinson

STAR STAFF

&nbsp  Ted Leger, City of Elizabethton public works director, said he expects city officials will make a decision by tomorrow on when to begin the bidding process to improve water quality standards at the Big Springs water treatment plant.
&nbsp  Gay Irwin, program manager of the Division of Water Supply, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, has requested a date of intent when the City will start the bidding process.
&nbsp  Heavy rainfall in August caused turbidity problems at the Big Springs plant, a problem which has existed for 10 years, according to Irwin. In August, the City issued a two-week water advisory, urging citizens not to drink the water without boiling it first, in response to murky water.
&nbsp  The City of Elizabethton consulting engineer on the Big Springs water treatment plant proposed two "short-term" options to improve drinking water standards mandated by the State of Tennessee.
&nbsp  In an Oct. 1 letter to Elizabethton Mayor Sam LaPorte, Joseph Wauford of J.R. Wauford and Co., engineering consultants from Maryville, proposed:
&nbsp  Option #1: Construction of a 12-inch water transmission line and booster station to the Big Springs Water Treatment Plant via Gap Creek Road. Continue operating the facilities as it is and make minor improvements as required.
&nbsp  The booster station would only operate during the high turbidity events and Big Springs would remain in operation the remainder of the time.
&nbsp  The only time the Chapman Springs/Valley Forge sources would be used would be during the high turbidity events at Big Springs which occurs after heavy rainfall events; therefore an adequate supply should be available from the Chapman/Valley Forge sources.
&nbsp  Option #2: Which Wauford favors, is to use the Big Springs Plant as a stand-by supply and operate the proposed Gap Creek Road Booster Station continuously.
&nbsp  'If for some reason the Chapman/Valley Forge supply were to be inadequate, the City could start up Big Springs. It would require the Big Springs plant to be operated every two weeks to keep all equipment functional."
&nbsp  "These are short-term options while a long-term solution may be found," Wauford wrote.
&nbsp  Construction of the transmission and booster station improvements would take approximately 15 months, he said.
&nbsp  "The City would also need to complete the comprehensive water plan.... In the interim, the State would need to permit your current waiver to remain in effect while the above is being performed with the understanding long-term improvements to the system would be completed promptly," Wauford stated.
&nbsp  According to Irwin, the City has already been given $2 million for various improvements through the Drinking Water Revolving Fund; $800,000 of that money has been earmarked for the Big Springs project.
&nbsp  "Since approval of the project and receipt of the available funds, the City of Elizabethton has inquired if the monies designated for these projects might better be used for the development of a new source intake on the Watauga River."
&nbsp  "While the Division has previously expressed support of the city seeking a new source at the Watauga River, it has not done so at the expense of bringing the Big Springs Water Treatment Plant into compliance."
&nbsp  "I have personally discussed the issue with Director David Draughon and Deputy Director Robert Foster and they have informed me that the Division will oppose the reallocating of these monies for other purposes," Irwin wrote in a Sept. 13 letter to Leger.
&nbsp  City Council members have expressed concerns about spending money on a water treatment plant that could become obsolete, especially since the City has committed to move forward with a more reliable surface source of water, regardless of the fate of a regional water authority.