Newton sewer work begins

After attempts to solve sewage leaks throughout the past decade proved unsuccessful, Newton officials hope their newest wastewater project pumps out the problem.

Work began on the Burris Road Pump Station in Newton this week. City officials say the construction should reduce raw sewage spills that have cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in maintenance and fines since 2004.

Since 2006, more than 160,000 gallons of untreated wastewater has spilled from Newton sewer lines, and more than 140,000 gallons of raw sewage made its way to the area's freshwater streams.

Correcting the problem will require building a new wastewater pumping station and installing more than 11,000 feet of force main – a project that will require about $1.9 million in work, said Wilce Martin, Newton public works and utilities director.

“We’re taking the pump station site and moving it out of the flood plain, where it was built years back,” Martin said, adding that occasional flooding to the site’s existing location has caused spills into McLin Creek tributaries in the past.

Hickory Sand Company, which was awarded the bid for the project, has started mobilizing equipment and will begin digging next week. Martin said the company will begin the project by boring under the roads and railroad tracks on the project alignment.

The contractor expects the project to be completed by the end of the year, Martin said.

Martin and other Newton leaders think the construction will heavily reduce spills at the pumping station – overflows that the city has already attempted to correct several times.

The city spent more than $212,000 in 2004 to install new pumps, control systems and sewer lines in an effort to control overflows at the site. However, following the work, overflow problems persisted at the pump station, which handles about 300,000 gallons of wastewater from both Newton and Conover each day.

In addition, the state has fined the city at least $400 for the raw sewage spills.

“It will definitely help to eliminate some of those overflow problems, but not all of them,” Martin said, adding that public works will take on other projects in the future to eliminate overflow issues.

One future project will include replacing existing 12-inch sewer lines in the Snow Creek area that are 40- to 50-years-old, he said.

“Most of the issues revolve around old infrastructure that needs to be replaced,” Martin said. “Those are the type of lines we are trying to fix.”

In December 2010, Newton received a grant for $1,175,274 from the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF) to help fund replacement of the pump station. The grant funding will also pay for about 14,500 feet of force sewer main.

"We did get the grant award," Newton City Manager Todd Clark said recently, adding it was slightly less than the expected project cost.

"One-point-one million dollars is a home run for the city. I want to thank the mayor for working to contact the CWMTF board of trustees and championing this for the city of Newton."

Newton's grant for the Burris Road Pump Station was among 227 local governments, state agencies and land trusts that sought almost $249 million from the CWMTF during the 2010 grant cycle, said CWMTF Executive Director Richard Rogers.

While Newton will accept almost $1.2 million in grant funds, Clark said the city will also accept a low-interest state loan to cover the remaining $800,000 in costs associated with the project.