City moves forward with water quality improvement plan

By Bob Robinson

   The City of Elizabethton is proceeding with plans to improve the quality of drinking water leaving its Big Springs Water Treatment Plant.
   Elizabethton City Manager Charles Stahl advertised for bids Sunday in newspapers in Knoxville and Johnson City. Bids are scheduled to be opened Nov. 20.
   Heavy rainfall in August caused turbidity problems at the Big Springs plant, forcing the City to issue a two-week water advisory urging citizens not to drink the water without boiling it first.
   Ted Leger, City public works director, said the Big Springs improvement projects may not be completed prior to the rainy months next spring and summer.
   "Construction progress will depend upon the type weather we have this winter," Leger said.
   Construction is expected to take 270 days, according to Doug Unger, City of Elizabethton project manager with Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon (BWSC), consulting engineers, architects and planners, from Knoxville.
   There are three phases to the project.
   Phase One: Water Plant Improvements, which include:
   * A new "Actiflow" pre-treatment process to reduce turbidity during periods of heavy rain to allow filters to do their job;
   * New supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA);
   * Electric upgrades;
   * Addition of a standby generator;
   * Addition of a high service pump; and,
   * Process wastewater improvements.
   Phase Two: Max Jett Road Water Line
   Construction of a 12-inch water line, approximately 13,000 linear feet, to the Max Jett Water Tank on Demolition Road.
   Phase Three: Filter Media Replacement
   Filter media will be replaced with a multistage granular substance.
   Turbidity at the Big Springs plant has been a problem for the past 10 years, according to Gay Irwin, program manager of the Division of Water Supply for the Tennessee Department of Environment (TDE).
   David Draughon Jr., director of the Division of Water Supply for TDE, in a letter to Elizabethton Mayor Sam LaPorte Jr., dated Oct. 10, said, "The Division must insist that the City of Elizabethton continue with its plans to provide the additional treatment units and improvements at Big Springs as approved by the Department."
   "It is not the intent of the Division of Water Supply to cause the City of Elizabethton to spend money that will be wasted by upgrading a plant that will be abandoned in the very near future," Draughon wrote.
   The State is not requiring the City to improve water hardness at the Big Springs plant.
   Water hardness "requires more soap, shortens the life of water heaters and stains sinks. Some physicians have associated high hardness levels with kidney stone and gall bladder difficulties," said Joseph R. Wauford III, J.R. Wauford & Co. Consulting Engineers, Maryville, in a letter to Mayor Sam LaPorte Jr., dated Oct. 1.
   Draughon said, "While the level of hardness may be an esthetic problem for the City, no national primary drinking water standards have been established prohibiting the use of hard water. Furthermore, the Division is not aware of any major problems caused by use of this hard water in the system. The decision to reduce the hardness of this water is left to the City."