Sewer and Waste Water Collection
Like most cities over 200 years old, Covington has its share of subterranean infrastructure challenges. Most notably is our sewer collection system and wastewater treatment plant (WWTP).
On a dry day, our WWTP receives, treats and discharges 1,000,000 gallons of effluent into the Tchefuncte River. We do so in compliance with DEQ and EPA standards. This is perhaps one of the most important responsibilities of local government.
On a rainy day, our WWTP receives 9,000,000 gallons. Much of this is due to holes and breaks in miles and miles of terracotta, concrete and orangeburg (wood and tar) sewer pipes. This surge in rainwater is called Inflow and Infiltration (I and I). It is typical to cities of our age. It is a bad thing.
When one of our aging sewer lines has a leak, the subsurface erosion can manifest itself as a dimple in the road with a small hole.
Like an iceberg, what is below the surface is often much greater. Earlier this year, on N. Taylor Street, the cavity below this hole was large enough for a small car to fit into. The supporting road asphalt was cantilevered, a very dangerous situation. Failing to repair these caverns creates the huge “pot-holes” often associated with New Orleans.
In this particular case, the offending sewer line was made of concrete rather than terra-cotta. Sewerage creates methane gas. Methane gas dissolves concrete. Hence, each time a new cut was made into the old concrete pipe (to add a joint), the old pipe simply disintegrated. This resulted in the entire block of pipe having to be replaced from manhole to manhole at a cost of about $100,000.
Starting with the previous administration and through today, we (the City) have been proactively repairing the sewer lines. First, smoke testing and video to identify the breaks. Second, excavation and sewer point repairs. Third, a synthetic lining is inserted creating a like-new pipe. Much of downtown has been completed, River Forest repairs are under design and The Ozone to the WWTP is on deck.
These processes are expensive and time consuming. From budget to design to contract to completion of a project takes years. The 2022 budget continues this environmentally important task, utilizing monies from the general fund, American A Recovery P (federal Covid relief) and State capital outlay grants. We have budgeted $500,000 for-the-ready, if and when needed, to match the State grants.
The Wastewater Treatment Plant involves large mechanical pieces operating in a toxic environment. Maintenance, repair and redundancy are a priority.
The “bar-screen” filters out non-biodegradable matter that finds its way from a commode, through the labyrinth of collection pipes and lift stations to the plant. This matter needs to be removed prior to the treatment process. As of two years ago, the bar-screen was broken … meaning this task was done by hand with rakes. This year, we were able to replace the broken bar-screen.
Prior to the effluent leaving the plant, it is forcibly pressed by a “belt press” which removes any non-dissolvables. The resulting blackish granular substance is then loaded onto trucks and used as a fertilizer at farms. With only one belt press, our plant lacks redundancy. Should that press fail, our entire operation would cease. With a State capital outlay grant of $900,000 (thanks to Senator Patrick McMath and Representative Mark Wright) and a city match of $300,000, we are now in the design phase for a second belt press.
The WWTP operates on electricity. Hence, a back-up generator is crucial. When asked the age of the generator, retired Public Works Director Chris Davis replied, “It’s a dinosaur. It was here when I got here.” Chris just retired after 27 years. We just installed a new, more reliable and energy efficient generator this Fall.
The 2022 budget calls for the storage pond to be mucked out ($600,000). Retired Public Works Director Chris Davis could not recall the last time the pond had been mucked out. Doing so will give the pond greater capacity resulting in fewer overflows.