County, Hubs agree to wastewater deal

Published 8:19 am Wednesday, June 30, 2010

SEDLEY—Southampton County and Hubbard Peanut Co. Inc. will enter into a 20-year utility services agreement for the county to handle the company’s wastewater.

Hubs, which is based in Sedley, currently generates about 200,000 gallons of wastewater a year while processing peanuts. The company is now using a private contractor to pump and haul its wastewater to facilities in the Hampton Roads Sanitation District.

“It is a win-win situation for us in terms of what our current costs are to haul wastewater to HRSD,” company President Lynne Rabil said Tuesday. “This will save us money and will be helpful in more ways than just the insurance of having someone handle our wastewater.”

The Southampton County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the agreement with Hubs at the end of its meeting Monday. The agreement is to take effect in July.

Under the terms of the contract, Hubs will pay to install and maintain pretreatment equipment at the Sedley plant for its wastewater before it is pumped and hauled — at the company’s expense — to the county’s newly expanded Courtland Wastewater Treatment System.

Rabil estimates the equipment, which will perform a process called electrocoagulation, will cost between $50,000 and $70,000.

Meanwhile, the county will pay to have a 10,000-gallon tank built at the wastewater plant in order to accommodate the delivery of wastewater from Hubs.

Southampton County Administrator Mike Johnson said it would cost $254,223 to build the tank at the wastewater plant, which is located on Old Bridge Road just south of Courtland and is in the final stages of construction and testing. But contract changes with the facility’s builders will lower the net cost to $160,133.88.

“We’ll be taking some credits for things like select fill as we close the project out,” Johnson said Tuesday. He added that the county would pay for the tank with money from the enterprise fund.

The expanded $26.6 million wastewater treatment system could be online as early as July 14.

Julien Johnson, the county’s director of public utilities, said construction of the storage tank would begin immediately. He said the tank would be built in-ground, would be 14 feet deep and have an open grate top, and would be constructed near the head works of the wastewater treatment system.

He added that the tank setup would allow Hubs’ wastewater to trickle into the system and not potentially overwhelm bacteria used to treat incoming waste.

“By putting it into the system a little bit at a time, it doesn’t upset the process,” Julien Johnson said Tuesday.

According to the agreement, Hubs will pay $61.25 for every 1,000 gallons of wastewater the company sends to the county, at a maximum of 10,000 gallons per week. The wastewater must also conform to several environmental limits.

Rabil said there were no environmental issues with Hubs’ wastewater.

“It has nothing to do with what is in the wastewater,” Rabil said. “The whole issue is the fact that we do not have access to the sewer system. If we were located in Courtland or Boykins, where there is a sewer system, our wastewater could go directly in at the same price and cost as everybody else. But because ours is going directly in as opposed to being diluted, there was some concern that it would ‘shock’ the system.”

Rabil and Mike Johnson said Hubs and the county had been in discussion about entering into an agreement for about a year, shortly after the company had to change private haulers. Hubs’ previous hauler had decided against continuing to take commercial wastewater for disposal at their permitted lagoon.

“It forced us to go and find another hauler who was already hauling for other companies to HRSD,” Rabil said. “The problem is HRSD is under different guidelines, and there is always a concern that a private hauler might not carry for us to HRSD.

“This agreement is buying us insurance that we will have somewhere to take our wastewater, and that we can maintain a viable operation in Sedley.”

Asked if the company had ever considered moving from Sedley, Rabil said yes.

“We have been in business in this community for over 55 years,” she said. “We’ve never had access to utilities. As we’ve grown, we’ve discussed moving, but it just never made economic sense.”

Most of Hubs’ disposal fees, $42.50, will go toward operations and maintenance costs, but the remaining $18.75 will be applied toward $75,000 in capital improvements made by the county on behalf of Hubs, amortized at zero percent interest over the life of the 20-year agreement.

The agreement also says that if Southampton enters into a similar agreement with another company to use the tank, Hubs’ rates would be adjusted downward accordingly.

Additional stipulations call for Hubs to pay the unpaid balance of the capital improvements if the company decides to renege on the deal, but the entire arrangement will be null and void if Sedley receives public sewer service and Hubs taps into it.