Lenoir to ask North Carolina for help paying for sewage repairs

Gunpowder Creek plant targeted by EPA
Jan. 22, 2013 @ 06:44 PM

The Lenoir City Council will seek a state grant to pay for repairs needed to correct ongoing environmental violations at the Gunpowder Creek sewage treatment plant.

During Tuesday's meeting of the Committee of the Whole, Radford Thomas, the director of the city’s public utilities, reported on the problems that have landed the plant on an Environmental Protection Agency watch list. There have been about 25 violations cited by the EPA for ammonia and suspended solids in treated waste. Thomas said that 90 percent of the problems at the plant could be attributed to mechanical issues. Extended periods of heavy rain also create issues as well by sending more water and runoff than usual.

The amount of money the city will seek was not discussed.

Though the committee's meetings usually are held just to provide the city council with information, because of the urgency of this issue the council went ahead with a vote on applying for the grant. The grant application was approved by a 6-1 vote, with Councilman T.J. Rohr  the lone dissenter.

The grant from the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund would help pay for adding another tank, which would keep wastewater inside the plant for a longer period of time, renovating existing tanks and upgrading other parts of the facility.

Thomas told the panel that the city council had already laid the foundation toward a solution to the problems at the plant by incorporating plans for the repairs into a community improvement plan. He also said that the council would have to act at its next meeting on the EPA’s recommendation, which city officials said could come at a conference call later Tuesday afternoon.

Rohr asked Thomas what the worst-case scenario could be stemming from the discussion with the EPA, and Thomas said the agency could issue an administrative order dictating a specific schedule for making the improvements. Thomas added that he did not expect that to be the case. Andy Lovingood with the engineering firm of McGill Associates agreed, saying that because of the previous steps by the city council, the EPA likely would be satisfied that the city was serious about taking action.

Construction could begin late next year and could be wrapped up sometime in 2015.

In other discussion, the committee heard from Police Chief Scott Brown about a traffic survey in the Kentwood area, which was prompted by complaints about the speed of traffic through the area and the desire to post the speed limit. The speed limit on West View Street is 35 mph, but there are no speed limit signs on the street. State law says that the speed limit shall be 35 mph inside the city limits unless otherwise posted.

The study, conducted Nov. 26-30, showed an average of 131 vehicles a day traveled the road. A total of 658 vehicles were on the street going an average of 21 mph. Only four vehicles surpassed the speed limit, the fastest going 44 mph. Based on the data, Brown said he saw no reason to post a speed limit sign on the street.