Frankford water plant ready to go to bid

After being stalled for the better part of five years, Frankford’s municipal water plant is finally ready to move to the completion phase. Town Manager Terry Truitt told the Coastal Point this week that the pre-bid meeting for the completion project has been set for Feb. 11, at 2 p.m. in the meeting room of the Frankford Volunteer Fire Company’s fire hall, next door to town hall.

“We have a set of plans on-site,” Truitt said of town hall, inviting the public to come by and take a look.

Those designs for the project are at the root of why the plant has been so long delayed in being completed and coming online.

“There were multiple things that were wrong,” Truitt noted regarding the construction of the $2.5 million water plant that has been unable to be operated.

Those included some county building permits that were not obtained and what Truitt labeled as “bad design” that meant some of the chlorinated water was set to discharge back into the county sewer system, which is prohibited. Truitt said putting that water into the sewer system in a proper way would have cost the town 33 equivalent dwelling units (EDUs) – a very costly proposition.

“You wouldn’t have been able to pay the quarterly sewer bills,” she said.

Truitt said the initial design for the water plant had been nothing more than a de facto sewer plant in function, designed to treat the water only.

“It was supposed to take us into the next 20 to 25 years of growth,” she lamented. “And it has the capacity to, if everything comes online.”

But high iron content that plagues all of the area’s water supply meant that promise was never even close to fulfilled.

“When we tested it three to five years back, we had iron bleed-throughs,” she explained. “The filters were designed to run every three to four hours on backwashing, and they couldn’t make it two hours with that iron content. You can’t be generating fresh water if you’re backwashing all the time,” she added.

With a new design by Cabe Associates of Dover, the town is now hoping that kind of problem is behind them.

The filter system design has been changed to utilize green sand filters. The winning bidder on the construction contract will be pulling out the larger existing filter vessels and replacing them with one or two of the green sand filters. And the town will also be recycling the decanted water from the backwash function and recycling it a second time.

“It’s kind of green, user-friendly,” Truitt said of the new system, calling it also more efficient for the town.

Though Truitt said there has already been a minor amendment to the bid package, related to the county sewer system, bids are to be back to the town by Feb. 26, at which time they’ll get an idea how much finally getting their $2.5 million water plant online will cost.

Fortunately for the financially strapped town, which is already at its full level of permitted indebtedness, the project cost has been covered by 21st Century Fund through the Office of Drinking Water. With the plant as a state-funded project, it’s expected that the town itself will not have to pick up any of the cost of this final completion work.

Truitt also noted this week that the town has reduced its estimated amount of water lost through an as-yet-undiscovered leak in the town water system this winter. She said the amount of lost water – initially reported as about 500,000 gallons – is believed to be closer to 200,000 or 300,000 gallons, now that a full accounting of water system reports has been made.

While the number is significantly smaller, the town is still trying to figure out where every bit of the missing water has been going and is still asking the public to keep an eye out for suspicious puddles, ice and damp ground. Some progress in solving the mystery has been made, however.

“A smaller conglomeration of leaks has been found,” Truitt noted this week, pointing out that some of the prior water loss and resulting damage had already been detected, including 48,000 gallons of water that flooded the Antioch Church’s dining hall just before Christmas, from the church’s sprinkler system, as well as a leak at Mountaire’s facility in the town on the same day.