By Nick Austin, Meteorologist / Reporter - bio | email
ATHENS, TN (WRCB) -- "When you flush your commode, you want it [the waste] to go away," says Wayne Scarbrough, Assistant General Manager at Athens Utility Board.
That's why the company decided a decade ago to start the process of overhauling the city's sewer system at a price tag of 25 million dollars. "The biggest part of that being about $18 million rebuilding the Oostanaula Plant to make it a much higher capacity," explains Scarbrough.
This increases it from two million gallons a day to six million, along with bigger pipes that will last longer.
The current leg of the project started about two years ago at exit 52 off Interstate 75, making its way closer to town and by last week ending up at Veterans Memorial Park.
The main concern is preventing waste water from spilling into Oostanaula Creek which flows through the park. "Where actually you were putting water back into the creek that you didn't have a chance to treat," says Scarbrough.
The bypasses causing this environmental concern can now be eliminated due to the higher capacity of the plant.
A combination of city, county, and federal funds pay much of the bill but a good chunk comes from operating revenues. So rates had to go up. "We had to raise our monthly customer availability fee that cover the fixed costs of the system and also the per gallon treatment charge," explains Scarbrough.
He says the public is behind this and most, like Tracy Carroll, are willing to pay a bit more to prevent problems down the pike. Carroll takes frequent walks in Veterans Park with her seven year old child.
"If it's going to help our environment, especially with the creek running through the park, yeah. I do," says Carroll.
There's also been virtually no red tape to stifle the progress. Something for which Scarbrough is very thankful. "We have a very proactive board of directors," he states.
For safety reasons Veterans Memorial Park will remain closed for a few more weeks until the work there is done. By this time next year Scarbrough hopes the next major section of the system--from the park to the treatment plant--will be replaced.
The rest of the decades-long project, which is mainly the smaller Mouse Creek basin, should be done in around two years.
Friday, May 24 2013 6:10 PM EDT2013-05-24 22:10:11 GMT
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