County to borrow $880,500 for Boykins sewer plant

Published 3:34 pm Tuesday, February 14, 2012

BOYKINS—Southampton County officials plan to borrow $880,500 to upgrade the Boykins sewer treatment plant after it discharged more ammonia and copper than permitted into the Meherrin River.

A public hearing on the no-interest loan will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 27, during the Board of Supervisors meeting at the County Government Center in Courtland.

Repairs are not anticipated to result in rate increases for the 550 residential and 66 businesses that use the system, said County Administrator Mike Johnson. Annual payments of $44,052 for 20 years will be made from savings in the plant’s budget.

There was no environmental damage done to the river.

In November 2009, after limits were lowered by the state Department of Environmental Quality, the Boykins plant couldn’t meet its discharge limits for ammonia and copper. Following a series of violations in 2010, the county agreed with the state to identify the cause of the problem, Johnson said.

“That effort culminated into us entering into a voluntary consent order with the State Water Control Board in September 2011,” Johnson said.

The order levied a $4,340 fine against the county, which has been paid. The order also required the county to bring the plant into compliance by next Jan. 1.

The source of the trouble was linked to two issues, he said.

“First, there was an accumulation of degraded sludge that has settled to the bottom of the aeration and digester basins,” Johnson said. “The sludge has the consistency of Play Dough, and certain constituents, including copper and ammonia, are bound up in it and periodically released during the biological process.”

The remedy was to remove the sludge. The basins have to be taken out of service one at the time and drained, after which the sludge will be mechanically removed, dewatered and transported to a landfill, he said.

In addition, the synthetic basin liners and the equipment at Boykins are nearing the end of their expected useful life.

“With its age, the equipment is insufficient to meet the new permit limits, even after the degraded sludge is removed,” Johnson said.

The county could not obtain grants for the project, but Assistant County Administrator John Mendenhall secured the no-interest loan from the Virginia Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund.