Smithville Alderman Tonya Sullivan believes the Smithville Water Treatment Plant is long overdue for rehabilitation and if it doesn't come soon, she is concerned about the quality of the drinking water, the safety of city employees working there, and the availability of water in case of a power failure without backup generators.
On Monday night, Alderman Sullivan says she will bring up the issue during a meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen. "I will be asking the board for a re-evaluation of the Smithville water treatment plant by Wauford Engineering and a full written report to be given. I will also ask for the board to take immediate action to make the repairs. Currently, the City of Smithville has approximately $4 million that can only be spent on water and sewer. Nothing other than water and sewer. The time to replace and repair is now. It is state mandated. There can be no more excuses."
City officials say approximately $200,000 was spent updating water filter valves and for a new telemetry system during the 2007-08 budget year.
In January, 2008, Mayor Taft Hendrixson presented a resolution, adopted by the aldermen, authorizing an application for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant through the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to help fund the proposed $1.4 million rehabilitation project at the water treatment plant. Mayor Hendrixson, at the time, said the city planned to fund the local share of $900,000 over a three year period from the Smithville Water & Sewer Revenue Fund at approximately $300,000 per year in each of three years. Later in the year, city officials learned that the grant application was not approved.
In November, 2008, Mayor Hendrixson again presented a resolution, adopted by the aldermen, authorizing the application for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to address water system needs including adding a portable pump to support the raw water intake to make it capable of drawing water during periods where the lake water level is drastically lowered and for improvements to address the renovation of the existing water treatment facility.
Alderman Sullivan says she has always been an advocate for safe water, but she became even more concerned after reading a January 2008 preliminary engineering report on the water treatment plant by Wauford Engineering. She decided to speak out on the issue again, after visiting the plant on January 19th, 2009 and discovering for herself the conditions there. " Safe water has been at the root of my service to this community. My first interest in the city government was sparked five years ago when my own water had rusty fibers and solids running through my pipes. From that point on I decided to get involved and make sure the citizens of Smithville and DeKalb County would have quality water. But today, I'm taking this time to inform the citizens of a situation that could very well be a crisis situation. The Smithville water treatment plant is in a critical state. The state of Tennessee reported eleven infractions in February, 2007. Following that report, the board asked the Wauford Engineering firm to report on the conditions of the water treatment plant and to recommend in a written report their findings to the board. Improvements to be made by Wauford did overlap with that of the state mandated improvements. The state gave a time line as to when the repairs were to be made. The City of Smithville has ignored the mandates and neglected to make repairs needed and this may have jeopardized the quality and safety of the water."
" It appears that the conditions of the existing facility are currently below average. I took the opportunity to tour the water treatment plant myself on Monday, January 19th, 2009. The plant, in it's current condition is unsafe for the employees due to standing water and high voltage electrical panels. All drains are collapsed and allowing water to be standing and they appear to be irreparable without running new lines. Pumps and equipment are outdated. Some as far back as 1967. And it is pot luck as to which pump will actually function on a given day."
" The state scored the water treatment plant at a 76 which is a provisional score. That was in February, 2007. The provisional score means that infractions were to be completed in order to raise the score. These infractions to date are still incomplete. As a matter of fact, this issue has been swept under the carpet. Not until the CDBG grant, that was applied for failed, did this board decide to seek further information confirming our suspicions. Some of the excuses given for not taking action on this is expense and costs. The Wauford report states in 2008 that the cost would run approximately $1.4 million for repairs. Now that this has been neglected, the cost will have to be re-evaluated. Repairs and replacements are even more extensive now and more expensive."
"Most of the equipment has outlived it's usefulness. Renovation is necessary to provide safe and potable water. Some of the infractions that were reported by the state are: filter underdrain replacement, a new air scour blower, new standby backwash pump, (A failure of this pump for any period of time will result in citizens being without water), a new plant and system telemetry control, (The current one is antiquated, prone to failure, and creates an emergency condition). Modification of a 1967 clearwell, modifications to chemical storage and feed equipment, and new standby diesel generators are needed at the intake and water treatment plant in case of power outage."
"The consequences of citizens not having potable water are dire. Without renovations, it is anticipated there will be turbidity violations that would require citizens to boil their water. Failure to address these problems place every citizen in Smithville and DeKalb County and all those that drink this water in a state of danger. There are state and federal regulations that require this protection for all citizens. For safety, the water is being independently tested and it has been reported that there are no e.coli present in the water. However, testing for metals, turbidity, and other characteristics are due in soon. All the information that I have reported for the citizens comes directly from the Wauford Engineering firm's findings and from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Office from their report."
The January 2008 Wauford report states that " The purpose of this is to report recent findings at the Water Treatment Plant which indicate that the basic facilities are in good shape but that there is a significant amount of equipment and other items which have outlived their useful life and for which parts are no longer obtainable. Renovation of this plant is necessary to ensure an adequate and safe supply of potable water for the citizens of Smithville."
"Regulatory Action: A sanitary survey was conducted by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Division of Water Supply personnel on February 20th, 2007 at the Smithville Water Treatment Plant. Several issues were raised during the survey resulting in a survey score of 76 which is considered in the "Provisionally Approved" category by TDEC. Some items discovered during the inspection include turbidity violations, chemical storage and feed problems, improper chlorine ventilation, and painting and renovation at the raw water intake."
"Proposed Improvements: The improvements proposed to the Smithville Water Treatment Plant consist of filter underdrain replacement, a new air scour blower, new standby backwash pump, new plant and system telemetry and SCADA system, modifications the 1967 clearwell, modifications to chemical storage and feed equipment, and new standby power at the intake and water treatment plant."
"In March of 1993, an ice storm raged across Tennessee and caused the City of Smithville to be without power for an extended period resulting in the City nearly running out of potable water. The outage time for Smithville is exacerbated by the fact that DeKalb County consists of a very wooded hilly terrain which results in numerous power line failures due to falling trees. Although this is an infrequent condition; the consequences of Smithville running out of potable water are dire. For this reason, standby diesel generators are proposed at the raw water intake and at the plant to maintain water production during power failures. These renovations are estimated to cost $1.4 million."
"Conclusion: The Smithville Water Treatment Plant is in serious need of renovation to continue to produce a plentiful safe supply of drinking water. The condition of the existing facilities is below average. Without renovation, it is anticipated that the plant will experience more turbidity violations that could result in boil water advisories for the citizens of Smithville. It is recommended that the Smithville Water Treatment Plant undergo renovations estimated to cost $1.4 million."
(Alderman Sullivan made pictures during her visit to the Smithville Water Treatment Plant and Water Intake Location on January 19th, 2009) Click the following link to view those pictures.