A good move in upgrading treatment plant

Published 6:25 pm Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s decision last week approving a $2.2 million contract with Electro-Mech Inc. of Richland to upgrade the electrical system at the city’s water treatment plant on Haining Road is a good move toward the future, but something that should have been done a long time ago.

While the present system was state-of-the-art when the plant was built in 1967, it is a dinosaur today, and has been source of problems for the city when it came to repairs and replacing parts. Public works director Garnet Van Norman in an April 27 article said the plant’s present 2,400-volt system is obsolete, adding there are very few companies that have the equipment for the system.

“We were having to rob parts to keep it going,” he said.

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Besides its age, the plant’s electrical system has gone down four times since 2013, forcing the city to order boil water notices for its customers.

On Aug. 30, 2015, a tree falling on a power line knocked out power to the city’s well fields, causing a drop in pressure at the plant. It was later responsible for causing the plant’s four pumps to shut down, leaving the city without water for almost 12 hours. The city was under a boil water notice for four days.

Nov. 4, 2015, a blown fuse at a water well and a faulty generator were the apparent causes of a power outage that shut down the plant for about three hours, forcing city officials to issue a citywide boil water notice for the water system’s customers.

Aug. 27, 2015, city officials were forced to issue a citywide boil water alert after a power failure shut the plant down, and in 2013, an electrical problem at the water treatment plant caused officials to issues a citywide boil notice.

Money for the project is coming from the city gas department’s estimated $9 million surplus, which can be used for city utilities-related projects and will be repaid over time. Upgrading the water plant’s electrical system has been discussed since Mayor George Flaggs Jr.’s first term in office, but until this year the city followed its usual policy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” an attitude that accounts for some of our present infrastructure problems.

Hopefully the water plant project signals an attitude adjustment.