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Posted: Wednesday, August 6th 2014 at 12:08am

Under EPD microscope, Cornelia facing costly sewer line repair

By Rob Moore Editor
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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CORNELIA - Aging infrastructure again is creating costly headaches for Cornelia leaders.

Tuesday night, the city commission heard from City Manager Donald Anderson that the Georgia Environmental Protection Division now is involved after a half-dozen leaks or spills from the line in a 12-month period.

"The City of Cornelia has some very old infrastructure, some of it dating back as far as 60 years," Anderson said. "Recently, in the past 12 months, we've experienced several sewer spills on one of our oldest lines."

Anderson said the city has experienced about six leaks or spills on the line in the past year.

Weather has complicated matters.

"It seems like every time it rains we have a problem," Anderson said. "The city has been working on this as we can. A big problem is a portion of the line goes under residences, so there's really nothing you can do with those sections of the line."

The city has roughly 46 miles of water lines and 30 miles of sewer lines.

In the past five years, about 70 percent of the city's aging water lines have been replaced. But sewer lines are another story - and the main that is failing is a large one.

"It's a 12-inch sewer main that probably collects half our town," Anderson said. "It originates on Banks Street and follows the creek past Irvin Street Park and all the way to Wayside Street. Then that line collects all of the sewer from Tower Mountain, downtown - it's a large sewer main."

Ward 3 Commissioner Don Bagwell stressed city government tries to be a good steward of taxpayer money, but has no choice when old infrastructure fails before it can be replaced.

Anderson agreed.

"We've been working on it but now the EPD has stepped in and they're going to force our hand," Anderson said. "They have put us under a consent order, which we have to pay a fine of $3,000 and we have to within 90 days have an engineered plan of how to remedy the problem."

Tuesday night, the city commission approved $117,500 for Carter & Sloope, the city's engineering firm, to design corrective measures and locate specific problems along the line.

Anderson said the engineers plan to use a TV camera to survey the line in hopes of identifying and isolating problem areas. If only smaller sections have to be replaced, the cost won't be as high as if the entire sewer main requires replacement.

The $117,500 engineering fee includes design, camera work inside the line and any grant administration.

"That would take us all the way through construction, grant administration - because we definitely will be applying for federal and state grants to try and help with the cost of this project," Anderson said.

The city is looking at a large unanticipated expense to replace the failing sewer main.

"The engineer's estimate if the entire line has to be replaced would be in the neighborhood of $875,000, so it is a very expensive project," Anderson said.

Even if total replacement is not required, an engineered plan within 90 days is - and failure to meet the deadline would be very costly for the city.

"I think the penalty for every day that we are in violation of that 90 days is $50,000 a day, so we definitely want to get our engineer started on this as soon as possible and make sure we comply with all the EPD restrictions they're putting on us," Anderson said.
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