Official: County shouldn’t foot repair bill

Published 10:38 am Friday, September 21, 2012

COURTLAND—A Southampton County supervisor doesn’t believe the county should pay the extra $245,000 to repair the Boykins sewer treatment plant.

Newsoms District Supervisor Glenn Updike says the burden should be placed on the engineer — the Timmons Group.

“It’s my understanding the Timmons Group made a gigantic big mistake in their calculations,” Updike said. “They were about 300 percent off for the amount of sludge in the ponds, not 5 percent or 10 percent.”

During their 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24, meeting at the county government center in Courtland, supervisors will ask the public for comments on plans to borrow the money to cover the extra cost.

In November 2009, after limits were lowered by the state Department of Environmental Quality, the Boykins plant couldn’t meet its discharge limits into the Meherrin River for ammonia and copper.

Following a series of violations in 2010, the county agreed with the state to identify the cause of the problem. The county was fined $4,340, which has been paid, and was ordered to bring the plant into compliance by Jan. 1, 2013.

Supervisors in February borrowed an interest-free, $880,500 from the state to improve the plant.

The source of the trouble was linked to an accumulation of degraded sludge that has settled to the bottom of the aeration and digester basins. Officials also learned the plant needed additional repairs due to its age.

The contract called for removing and disposing up to 47 dry tons of sludge at $1,844 a ton . It was anticipated that the 5 percent project contingency would be sufficient to cover minor variations in actual quantities.

“Unfortunately, we’ve encountered much more sludge than was anticipated,” said County Administrator Mike Johnson.

So far, the contractor has removed 91.5 dry tons; that number could climb to 180 tons, which equates to a cost of more than $245,000.

Johnson said the sludge is under water so the amount was based on an estimate.

DEQ offered to lend the money to the county under the same terms of no interest for 20 years. The cost of the project increased to $1.08 million.

Updike claims the county has a contract.

“When they accepted the contract, they accepted the responsibility,” he said. “I would like them to make up the difference.”

Under the current loan agreement, the county will pay back $44,000 annually.

Repairs will not result in rate increases for the 550 residential and 66 businesses that use the system. Annual payments will be made from savings in the plant’s budget.