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Problems surface at Mt. Pleasant water treatment plant

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By Rachel Basinger
Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 1:41 a.m.

Mt. Pleasant Borough Council was asked this week to approve ordering new equipment for the borough's wastewater treatment facility.

Dan Schmidt of Gibson Thomas Engineering Inc., the borough's engineering firm for wastewater treatment, told council the firm was contacted approximately a month ago about some “ammonia issues” at the treatment plant.

At the time, a chemical process was implemented to attempt to rectify the issue, Schmidt said.

Approximately two weeks ago, the firm received another call that the medium inside one of the two biotowers that filters the wastewater had partially collapsed in one of the biotowers, he said.

“The tower itself did not collapse, but the media filter inside the tower had partially collapsed, sinking about six or seven feet,” said Schmidt, who added the estimated height of the medium is 20 to 24 feet.

“By the following Tuesday, we got a call that the other portion of the medium in that biotower had collapsed, as well,” he said.

Schmidt told council that they have been working to figure out why or how this has happened, but no one can say at this point. Even the manufacturer of the media filter has never seen this before, he said. “If the water started backing up or ponding in this tower, we'd have to take it out of service, but the employees are monitoring it to make sure that's not happening.”

Schmidt said they do not want to take the tower out of service if they don't have to, because if there's heavy rain fall, two towers are needed.

Neither the insurance company for the borough nor the municipal authority have claimed responsibility for the issue, but regardless, a new filter is a necessity, he said.

“The quote we got from the manufacturing company just for the materials is $259,000,” Schmidt said. “We still have to pay the contractor to remove and dispose of the old filter and then install the new one.”

Delivery on the replacement filter would be 14 to 16 weeks, he added.

Borough Manager Jeff Landy said the municipality is in a unique situation.

While the borough is in charge of running the plant, the borough's municipal authority actually owns its assets, he said.

Councilman Larry Tate, chairman of the wastewater treatment committee, said he was reluctant for council to approve any suggested expenditures without first meeting with members of the municipal authority.

Council did not take action on the issue, but Tate said he plans to set up a meeting with the municipal authority to discuss this issue.

Shifting from issues with the plant to the sewage collection system, Ken Orie, also with Gibson-Thomas Engineering Inc., said the firm recently received a letter from the state Department of Environmental Protection requesting data that will allow them to close the books on the borough's attempt, beginning in 1998, to comply with the new combined sewer overflow guidelines set at that time.

Orie said the borough and the municipal authority have worked hard over the last several years to remove storm water flow from the sewage lines.

“You've done the work, you've laid out a plan and now they want to see if the results are there,” he said.

As part of the plan, the system needs to show that at least 85 percent of the flow is being treated.

Orie said that, based on estimates taken every month for mandated reports, he feels they will meet that 85 percent, but they can't say for sure without proof.

He asked the borough to approve placement of 13 flow monitors in various areas of the system to collect such data.

The equipment will cost approximately $75,000. The engineering study and model will add on another $30,000.

Council President Joe Bauer said council doesn't really have a choice.

A motion was passed to proceed with the study and purchase the flow monitors. Another motion passed to transfer $105,000 from the wastewater treatment contingency fund to pay for the project.

Rachel Basinger is a contributing writer.

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