City plans $1.53M in raw water facility upgrade


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Elizabeth City officials are planning $1.53 million in upgrades to the city's main reservoir for pre-treated water in coming months, in a response to the state finding too much bacteria there last year.

They also reported last week that the state will cover just over half that cost.

The State Water Infrastructure Authority has approved almost $1.1 million for a new cover, liner, and other upgrades to the city's primary raw water reservoir, City Manager Rich Olson reported to the city council last week. The $1.1 million is in the form of a loan with “principal forgiveness” of about $805,000, meaning the city will only have to repay the state about $270,000, he reported.

That means the city will have to pay the remaining $460,000 itself, and Olson also reported he's already included the project in his proposed budget for next year. He's also proposing to pay the remaining costs with money on hand, versus additional borrowing, he added.

The reservoir can hold 3 million gallons of “raw,” or pre-treated, water and provides a backup source if the city can't get enough well water. It's been out of commission since August, following state officials finding excessive levels of potentially harmful bacteria, including e. coli.

The city has been relying on a much smaller, secondary reservoir in the mean time.

The excess bacteria occurred because the reservoir isn't capped, which allows animal waste to enter it, Olson and Public Utilities Director Amanda Boone have explained to council. The state's Department of Environmental Quality is requiring the city cover the reservoir, which will require a cap spanning some 22,000 square feet, Boone further explained in January. The cap will reduce how many contaminants enter the city’s water treatment plant, and lower the risk of potential health hazards surviving treatment.

Olson also reported the city needs to replace the reservoir's liner, which has leaks, another major expense. The project also includes modifying an inlet and outlet to control water flow.

Though costly, the project will block the water from waterfowl and sunlight, preventing buildup of bacteria and algae, and boost the city's backup supply of raw water, Olson reported.

Olson said he expects the project to start in September and take about eight months.