$13 M plant is on list for stimulus

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A $13 million project to double the capacity of Lewisburg's sewage treatment plant is listed by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation as among dozens of utility projects statewide that are competing for federal stimulus funds.

However, Lewisburg Water and Wastewater Department Superintendent Kenneth Carr said Monday that there may be a greater chance of getting stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the water-line extension out of Cornersville along the Lynnville Highway.

That's because the pipeline's bids have been opened and contracts worth $954,000 are in place for construction to start in-line with a schedule as described during seminars conducted Friday by Jim Poff, manager of TDEC's State Revolving Fund.

Given his explanations and interpretations by some of the nearly 100 engineers and local government officials at the seminars in the L&C Tower, it would appear that if the $954,000 water line qualifies, $381,600 of it could be federally funded.

If the treatment plant project qualifies, then $5.2 million of it will be federally funded, according to formulas applied to the projects.

"We can do one water project and one wastewater project, so I'm going to see if we can do one that's construction-ready and another to be ready prior to Feb. 17, 2010," Carr said Monday, adding that he'd be exploring the prospects this week.

TDEC wants Lewisburg to increase the capacity of its sewage treatment plant so that during periods of wet weather, the plant will be able to receive and process wastewater, instead of partial treatment, a problem faced by many plants.

Almost all sewers leak, thereby allowing groundwater to seep into pipes, thereby increasing flow beyond the plant's ability to treat such volumes. Pipe repair projects are conducted here and in cities across the nation.

Still, growth issues increase flow, so Carr explains the "big portion" of the expansion will be construction of "an inflow holding tank that will hold 10 million gallons of wet-weather diluted sewage."

The tank would be 56 feet high and 175 feet in diameter, he said. It's planned on property the City Council bought last year across from Rock Creek Park, but closer to the treatment plant further east.
Additional equipment would be installed at the plant as well as additional clarifiers so the plant could treat six million gallons a day, doubling its capacity, Carr said.
"They want every drop of water that comes to a sewage treatment plant to have complete treatment, even in high inflow conditions," Carr said.

Among the nearly 100 people at TDEC's seminar Friday was Lamar Dunn of Knoxville, where he runs his own engineering firm.

"There are a lot more hoops to jump through than most folks realize at this point," Dunn said after two seminars in Nashville. "We started telling our clients back in December that if they want to get in line for (stimulus) money, to have all of their environmental work done."

Environmental studies include verification that the project won't adversely affect endangered species or even graves of native Americans.

"You can't do one of those in a week," Dunn said.

The engineer's point substantiates what the state's loan fund manager emphasized as he spoke about what's commonly referred to as "shovel-ready" projects.

"Preference is given to projects ready to go in 120 days," Poff said.

Assistant Environment and Conservation Commissioner Paul Sloan told the loan fund manager and his staff, "we will not lose any of these funds,'" Poff said. Money that's not committed on time to projects in accordance with federal regulations under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act can be recovered by the federal government and redistributed to other states.

"It's the old adage," Poss said: "Use it or lose it."

A key part of the funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is to create jobs soon.

To make the federal stimulus money go further and to avoid paperwork associated with grants, Tennessee is placing the stimulus money for water and wastewater projects in the state's revolving loan fund, Poff said.

That not only makes more money available, but it changes the nature of the distribution, although that might be seen only as a change in terminology.

Instead of receiving grants, utilities contract for low interest loans and provisions of that agreement are described as "forgivable loans," which in this situation means that 40 percent of the loan's principal and interest don't have to be repaid.