Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mosheim Is Urged To Upgrade Sewer Dept. And System

The Town of Mosheim was strongly encouraged Thursday to consider hiring a full-time person qualified to run its Water and Sewer Department, as a way of getting control of current and future needs.

That recommendation was made by Brett Ward, a utility operations consultant with the University of Tennessee Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS), near the end of a lengthy Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting.

Much of the meeting dealt with sewer odor problems.

Two chemical sewage treatment vendors made presentations to the board, at the invitation of J.C. Hurd, a full-time sewer system employee of the Town of Greeneville who also serves Mosheim on a part-time basis.

Hurd in essence agreed with the MTAS official, telling the board that he would be pleased if the town were to hire a qualified person, or choose one of its current employees for training that would lead to certification as a sewer plant operator and sewer collections operator, "and run me off."

Both Ward and Hurd said they believe that it would be in the town's best interest to have a full-time, certified person on the town's payroll.

Ward said that, in working with Mosheim over several years, "What I am observing is a lot of problems and issues dealt with by the most expedient manner.

"Whatever's easy, whatever's a shortcut, that's what we're gonna do" has been the norm, he said.

PART-TIME WORKERS

Ward said Mosheim has relied on part-time help and consultants, but it would be "maybe better if the town had its own certified (sewage treatment and collection) operator here, full time, paying attention to the plant."

The MTAS consultant said Mosheim needs to get a handle on the financial side of its sewer system, on what he called "enormous" maintenance expenses, and perhaps reorganize its utility department and its training.

"There are a number of really big issues we have never resolved, and they only get worse and worse, and really expensive," Ward said.

"The odor problem is an example of that," he said, but he added that sewer odor and system deterioration are two sides of the same coin.

A few months ago, Ward said, he wrote a letter to Mosheim Mayor Billy Myers, suggesting the town consider a full-time utility manager, or a full-time sewage treatment plant operator.

Mayor Myers did not comment during the meeting.

In a short telephone interview Friday, the mayor said that whether someone is hired full-time "depends on who I can find."

Myers said finding a person who is qualified and who is right for the job will be difficult and expensive.

"I'm not going to jump out and hire anybody, but I am going to be looking," the mayor told The Greeneville Sun.

Hurd said his agreement with Mosheim calls for him to do paperwork and monthly reports to the state, and "to take care of overflows" from the system when they occur.

Otherwise, Hurd said, he checks the treatment plant daily, "and I'm out of here. That's what I'm paid for."

Alderman Harold Smith asked Hurd what it might cost to hire someone "with your capabilty."

Hurd said the town would have to spend $900 to $1,100 per week to get someone capable of running the plant who would show up and do a good job, and handle necessary paperwork.

He said the ideal person would need to be the type of individual who would see that work is performed "exact, to the T."
Alderman Smith said, "That's what we need."

ODOR ISSUES RECOUNTED

Persistent odor problems from the town's sewer pump stations in several locations, including the town hall area, were discussed.

Bill Hyland, of Newburgh, Ind., with Weatherford International, said the town has a problem with hydrogen sulfide escaping from its pump stations, which he proposed to treat with a chemical.

Hyland said nitrogen sulfide is the second deadliest gas, after hydrogen cyanide.

He proposed free gas monitoring followed by a 30-day test of his chemical, at no cost to the town. Several other Weatherford officials were present at the meeting.

At the end of the meeting, the board voted to take Hyland up on his offer of a free 30-day trial.

Hyland said the chemical treatment has a corrosion-inhibiting side effect that would stop deterioration of concrete that is occurring, in addition to eliminating sewer odor.

John Rose, of Greeneville, proposed using a different chemical, made by Martin Marietta, to treat odor. Rose said this product, called Thioguard, is a semi-solid "slurry" very similar to highly-concentrated milk of magnesia.

Thioguard would also have an anti-corrosive effect, Rose said, and is "relatively inexpensive" and easy to use.

Rose did not offer a free trial, but also offered free testing like that offered by his competitor. Rose said his services in determining how much Thioguard to use, and where, are included in the price of the chemical.

Hurd said both products are used by Greeneville.

He said Rose sells this product to Bulls Gap, but the town does not use enough of it.

Rose said Bulls Gap uses enough of the chemical to control odor problems for its own citizens.

Bulls Gap is introducing enough of the chemical "to satisfy their needs in their communty," Rose said, but "because of limited resources" does not use enough to control the odor once sewage from Bulls Gap reaches the Mosheim system.

'SEVERE EROSION' CITED

At that point, MTAS consultant Ward began showing pictures taken at three pump stations. He pointed out that the pictures show "severe concrete erosion" at the pump stations in the vicinity of exit 23 on Interstate 81.

Alderman Harold Smith and engineer Kathy Walden of W&W Engineering said the pump station near the Greene/Hawkins county line is less than five years old.

Ward pointed out what he said was evidence of "ground water leakage" into the pump stations, due to severe erosion.

WARNS OF POSSIBLE FAILURE

The MTAS consultant predicted that this pump station could "catastrophically fail" within the next five years, if deterioration continues at its present pace.

During the discussion, Alderman Gregg said, "Had chemicals been used years ago, we wouldn't have this damage now."

Ward agreed, and said, "Ronnie (Carmichael) might still be here with us, too. Hydrogen sulfide is a deadly poisonous gas."

Carmichael, 49, a longtime town employee, and Jeremy Goforth, 21, also a town employee, died July 28, 2008, while working inside a sewer pump station in Mosheim.

In January, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development's Division of Occupational Safety and Health cited the town for a number of safety violations related to the incident, and assessed penalties totaling $42,200.

Regarding Ward's comment, Alderman Gregg said, "That goes back to education on our part. If, 10 or 15 years ago, if we had heard what we've heard tonight, things might be different."

Ward replied, "That's what MTAS is here for. You've already paid for us, use us. We're part of your tax dollars at work; use us."

When discussion returned to damage of pump stations that Ward said he believes is caused by sewage from Bulls Gap, he said, "I think you've already got the tools you need to compel Bulls Gap" to do more pre-treatment to the sewage it sends to Mosheim for treatment at the Lick Creek Valley Wastewater Treatment Plant, which the town operates.

Ward said the contract between Bulls Gap and Mosheim includes a pre-treatment agreement, and the purpose of such an agreement is to protect the system and workers, and the treatment plant, though some legal issues may be involved.

He suggested that Mosheim might consider imposing a hydrogen sulfide limit on the sewage it accepts. With such a limit, the town could compel pretreatment, he said.

Source: The Greeneville Sun BY TOM YANCEY STAFF WRITER

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