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City launches $32 million Wastewater Capital Improvement Plan

Project mandated by Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality

Project mandated by Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality

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Project mandated by Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality

By JOHN RECH

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The City of West Memphis moved toward satisfying its Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality corrective action. City Council voted to invest in its longterm ability to for the city to “thrive for future generations, and provide a better quality of life” by authorizing a $32.4 million bond to improve existing wastewater treatment facilities, address aged and undersized sewer pipes and prevent sink holes. The multi-year project was set to be completed by late 2023 to satisfy the state deadline. The city undertook the debt and the utilities department promised no customer rate increases were needed to repay the loan.

City Utilities General Manager Todd Pedersen explained to city council during its last meeting.

”The city was put under an order by the Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and we developed a corrective action plan identifying 30 million dollars worth of improvement we need to make to the sewer system,” said Pedersen. “When I came to you a while back about this you granted a modest rate increase, which already went into effect, to pay for this. There will be no need to further raise rates.”

Mayor Marco McClendon announced the scope of the improvement projects.

”It’s a $32.4 million wastewater system infrastructure project, that will drastically improve our wastewater system and have an immediate impact on flooding in our city,” said McClendon. “The infrastructure plan will improve major components of the City’s existing wastewater facility including installing additional pumps, and generators, repair over 500 manholes, repair miles of sewer mains, upgrade disinfecting UV modules, construct three new water clarifiers, and construct 4 miles of new sewer force mains.”

Some projects were already complete or underway and paid for out of bond funds, those along with improvements over the next two year were outlined by utilities officials for its commissioners and city council and included:

■ ■ A rebuild of the sewer pump station at S. 22nd and E. Monroe will be rebuilt with a dedicated force main to the sewer treatment plant. Consulting engineers expected improved sewer service to a large section of the city east of South Seventh Street.

■ ■ The sewer pump stations near Walmart and at Lehr/Ten Mile Bayou will be rebuilt/upgraded and will have their own dedicated force main. This will improve sewer service to another large area of the city between North Avalon and Clement.

■ ■ The sewer pump station at the end of South Avalon has been rebuilt and upgraded to handle the additional flow from the new force main from the Walmart area.

■ ■ The Sewage Treatment Plant improvement plans doubled its capacity from 6.3 million gallons a day to over 12 million gallons a day. The expanded plant capacity may handle over 18 million gallons a day, on a temporary basis, during heavy rains. State-of-art disinfecting UV modules and three new water clarifiers will be included in the Sewer Treatment Plant upgrade. Huge new filters were planned to go with the increased plant capacity to improve residential sewer service during heavy rains and reduce the need for untreated effluent discharge into the river.

“We want all the money we are spending on upgrading the Sewage Treatment Plant to go to improving sewer service, not treating rainwater,” said McClendon.

Backup generators were also included in the Sewage Treatment Plant upgrade. This will improve the reliability and resiliency of the system (and will ensure residents’ bathrooms will still work) during a natural disaster or power failures.

“As we saw during the February blizzards, power failures in other parts of the country can impact West Memphis’ power supply,” said Pedersen. “Even when our power grid is working properly, we may be told that we must cut back on our power usage, what is known as load shedding. With the addition of the generator system at the Sewage Treatment Plant plus the existing one at the Water Treatment Plant, we can turn those generators on to meet our load shedding order without impacting residential electrical service.”

Over 500 manholes were slated for repair to eliminate storm water from leaking into them during heavy rains. Rainfall infiltration has doubled the amount of water the Sewage Treatment Plant received and is why residential sewer service has been impacted during heavy rains. The sewer mains throughout the city were identified as another major source of rainwater leakage. To combat this, several miles of mains were planned for new liners made of a sealant that will stop the leakage. This will also prevent the kind of leakage that has started sinkholes in the city.

West Memphis Utilities crews repaired erosion damage from leaking sewer lines. City Council authorized taking on $32 million bond debt for sewer system repairs across the city over the next two years after hearing the promise of now new rate increases to fund the projects.

Photos courtesy of the City of West Memphis

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