By Jean Cole
Athens city officials are planning four major water and sewer projects that could be completed within the next 18 to 24 months, if the City Council approves.
The four proposed projects — which would cost between $5.1 and $5.3 million — include:
• Upgrading the city’s water-treatment plant — $3.9 million;
• Improving water pressure in the Edgewood Road area — $200,000 to $400,000;
• Replacing decaying clay-tile sewer lines — $700,000;
• Permanently paving two areas following sewer installment — $300,000.
Water-treatment plant upgrade
Upgrades to the water-treatment plant are needed, in part, to meet new standards for removing the byproducts of chlorination, which in minute quantities could be carcinogenic, Athens Utilities Waters Services Manager John Stockton told council members Friday during a work session on water and wastewater needs.
Stockton said the new standards, which have been finalized by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, would require water-treatment facilities to monitor chlorine levels at each point of chlorine addition. He said the upgrades would cost $3.93 million and that Athens Utilities could borrow $3.9 million from the state revolving-loan fund at 2.5 percent interest over 20 years. Council members tentatively agreed on borrowing the money but will vote formally at the Jan. 28 meeting.
Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks said water-pressure problems have plagued the area of Edgewood Road for many years and it was time to remedy that.
“They deserve to have water pressure — we have to fix it if we can,” he said.
Stockton said it would cost $200,000 to $400,000 to loop a distribution line parallel to the current transmission line that currently serves residents in the area. He said the reason the water pressure is so low or fluctuates is that the transmission line was never meant to be a distribution line.
Councilman Wayne Harper, who has lived on Edgewood Road since moving to Athens in 1998 to become police chief, described the water pressure problem as “terrible.”
He also told The New Courier after the meeting that it is difficult to take a shower at times because the water pressure either drops or stops completely.
Stockton said the project would cost $200,000 to $400,000, depending upon how far down Edgewood the distribution line is extended.
Marks said he believed it was time to remedy the problem, meaning for all the residents in the area.
Councilman Chris Seibert pointed out that these 20 or more households in question pay the same water rates as others in the city but do not receive the same service.
Improving water pressure might also spur more development in the area, Marks said.
If approved, the project would remedy pressure problems for some in 9 months and for all in 18 months, Stockton said.
Replacing leaking sewer line
The third proposed project involves spending $700,000 already budgeted for the wastewater department to continue replacing decaying clay tile in the downtown area around Clinton and Marion streets. Athens Utilities has already replaced about 3 miles of the pipe with PVC pipe. Replacing more pipe will continue to reduce the amount of rain that infiltrates the sanitary sewer through cracks. Infiltration of rainwater into the sanitary sewer needlessly increases the amount of sewer water that has to be treated at the wastewater plant and dispatched into the Tennessee River, Stockton said. (The city already has a separate storm sewer to handle rainwater.) Treating rainwater reduced the useable capacity of the wastewater plant, which will be needed as the city continues to grow. This proposed project would allow the city to do another 3 miles, leaving about 24 more miles to replace over the next 10 years. If approved, the project could be completed in 18 to 24 months.
The final project involves permanently paving areas downtown and in Winslow and Whitfield subdivisions off South Lindsay Lane. These are areas where sewer lines were installed and only temporarily paved. These two projects are expected to cost $300,000.
The council will meet again Monday at the Athens Police Department courtroom for a work session at 4:30 p.m., followed by a meeting at 5:30 p.m.