SUD to Purchase Items on ARP List

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the July 19 meeting, the Sewanee Utility District Board of Commissioners approved moving forward with purchase of two items SUD initially intended to wait to acquire with American Recovery Plan (ARP) funds. At the June meeting the board grappled with the wisdom of delaying purchase of items critical to SUD’s operation.

The self-cleaning bar screen system for the main pumping station on Bob Stewman Road will filter out disposable wipes and face masks which clog and damage sewage pumps and create a health hazard for employees tasked with repair. The purchase cost, $205,000, also includes a manual bar screen to protect pumps at the wastewater treatment plant lagoons. SUD manager Ben Beaves said the combined cost for the self-cleaning and manual units was less than the cost of the most expensive self-cleaning unit which filtered out smaller debris. “The most expensive one catches more stuff,” said Beavers, “but if it [debris] will pass through a quarter inch screen it won’t hurt us.”

Beavers is negotiating with the distributor on the $17,000 installation cost. The Bob Stewman Road unit will require a crane to install. “If they put it in, we can hook it up,” Beavers said. Commissioner Donnie McBee observed SUD could rent a crane.

The trailer mounted vacuum excavator system, cost $60,000, will aid in locating lead fittings on water service lines. Federal law requires water utilities to identify and precisely locate all lead fittings in the system within the next three years, Beavers said. He described the vacuum excavator system as an industrial vacuum cleaner paired with a high intensity pressure washer. The vacuum excavator uses high-pressure water to penetrate and break up soil and the vacuum removes the loose material, exposing buried utilities without causing damage to buried conduit, pipe or lines. The distributor recently demoed the unit for SUD. Beavers showed photographs of lead fittings on a water line exposed in the demonstration. “It makes a nice clean hole with no mess,” observed McBee. “It worked exactly like I hoped it would,” Beavers said. “Now we’ll know exactly where to dig.”

The multi-purpose tool can also be used to clean the lagoon bar screen and sewer system grinder pumps. Board President Charlie Smith pointed to enhanced “personnel safety” as another plus in favor of purchasing the unit.

Updating the board on the project to narrow Highway 41A, Beavers said the Tennessee Department of Transportation would file for “substantial completion.” Beavers will request release of the unused SUD funds held in escrow for the project. “Then we go to the University,” said Commissioner Doug Cameron. The University has indicated it would provide financial assistance to offset the cost to SUD. The project was undertaken at the University’s behest.

Beavers report on operations showed decreased unaccounted for water loss during the period of low water usage in late May with students gone and many faculty out of town. “That looks like a clue to me,” said Smith. Unaccounted for water loss is water produced at the plant which does not pass through customer meters. “I’m leaning toward a metering cause,” Beavers said. The plastic Hersey meters installed several years ago frequently gave trouble, he noted. Zone meter data has not shown the water loss is occurring in any particular part of SUD’s service area, nor does the water loss correlate with the number of meters in an area. Unaccounted for water loss costs SUD $30,000 annually, Beavers said. By industry standards, $10,000 of that amount is considered “unavoidable,” but the other $20,000 is “recoverable.” “We don’t know where the water loss is,” Beavers insisted. “It’s a never-ending battle.”

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