The Yadkin Valley Sewer Authority continues to tackle outdated lines and systems with funding from grants and loans, as well as user fees for the unique regional sewer system.
The local sewer authority is unique in that it provides regional wastewater management and treatment in three towns — Elkin, Jonesville and Ronda — which are in three separate counties — Surry, Yadkin and Wilkes. The system was formed to take over the aging wastewater systems of the three towns.
“We are starting our eighth year,” said YVSA Board Chairman J.L. Lowe of the authority. “We’ve got lots of grants, but a lot are not free. Some are 50 percent loan with payments and no interest.”
That cost has to be paid, which is where the rates to users come in to play — to fund the operation and maintenance on the system, as well as pay off debt service from sewer upgrade projects.
During a recent retreat of the Elkin Board of Commissioners, Nichole Johnston, director of YVSA, and Benjie Thomas, engineer with West Consultants of Morganton, provided an update on the projects now being tackled by the authority and those coming up.
The YVSA wastewater treatment plant continues to be a focus of upgrades and replacements, as it was built in 1958. Gilbert Engineering from Statesville is the contractor on the project, with a price tag of $1,885,036 to provide a new clarifier for the plant. It is expected to be completed in September of this year.
Thomas explained that the clarifier is what takes the solids out of the wastewater so the water can be treated.
Johnston said the plant improvements, which also included a new lab building, will be shown off during an open house when the projects are completed.
Another ongoing project is one being done in partnership with Surry County, to provide a sewer line between the YVSA system and Weyerhaeuser, which is off N.C. 268 near Friendship Speedway. The project includes adding a pump station near the plant, which makes OSB board, and 11,700 feet of force main.
Leading up to this project, Weyerhaeuser has been using spray irrigation on tracts of land near the mill to dispose of the wastewater from the plant. This project will help ensure 134 jobs remain in Surry County.
The cost of the Weyerhaeuser project is $1,155,851, and is being funded through an Appalachian Regional Commission grant of $300,000, a $524,680 grant from the state Department of Commerce, a $200,000 Golden LEAF grant and $131,171 from Surry County government funds. Completion for the project is anticipated by the end of October.
A couple of new projects have received funding and are in the design phase, including more improvements to the wastewater treatment plant, Johnston said. That project will include rehabilitation of concrete structures and improving access to digester mixers, rehabilitation of sludge drying beds, addressing erosion on the effluent line stream and replacing waste activated sludge (WAS) pumps.
The improvements are estimated at $966,000 with 50 percent principal forgiveness. Johnston said since the project is tied to the treatment plant it qualified for a 50-percent grant and 50-percent loan. Construction isn’t expected to begin until February of 2019 and should take a year to complete.
Another new project includes rehabilitation of the collection system to address repairs and needs at the site of 191 smoke test defects and 133 manholes. Also addressed with the project will be rehabilitation of a number of gravity main defects, such as about 2,300 linear feet of 4-inch and 6-inch orangeburg pipe, 15 spot repairs, 18,300 linear feet of 8-inch cured-in-place pipe and 3,000 linear feet of 12-inch cured-in-place pipe. Other pieces of the project will be replacement of 4,800 linear feet of 12-inch vitrified clay pipe with 12-inch PVC and 12 manholes at the Jonesville Yadkin River outfall, as well as improvements to the Elkin Yadkin River 21-inch outfall by raising the rims of 10 manholes and replacing about 50 feet of concrete pipe
This second project is estimated at $2,645,500 with a 75-percent grant to help fund it. Construction also is expected to begin on it in February of 2019 with a year to completion.
The YVSA has applied for funding for three more future projects, Johnston said. Those include a high priority areas collection system assessment project with $150,000 grant requested; a pump station rehabilitation project with $1,509,090 requested, but at best would be 75-percent grant funded; and a collection system rehabilitation project with $1,615,774 request, but at best would be 75-percent grant funded.
The applications for those projects were submitted Sept. 29, 2017, Johnston said.
“We inherited very old systems in Elkin and Jonesville, so we’re trying to correct all those problems since 1955, so it is an uphill struggle on money,” Lowe told the Elkin commissioners. “The towns didn’t set the sewer authority up with enough money to start with, so it’s been an uphill battle. But there has been a lot of work done.”
Since the creation of the sewer authority, including the three projects in application stages, the organization has taken on 16 projects costing $16,663,379. Of that cost, grants have covered $9,728,239, loans make up $5,793,280 and local matches totaled $1,141,860.
“I’m proud of where we’ve come and where we’re going,” Johnston said, adding that when area waterways are seen flooding, that means the sewer system is out of its collection system as well and crews are out all hours of the night dealing with spills caused by the floods. “If you see Yadkin Valley Sewer Authority staff out, think about them.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.