City eyes up to $1 million for sewer repairs

The city’s treatment plant, which is licensed to treat 3.5-million gallons a day but at times has been handling four million or more gallons.
Staff Writer

Sometime this year, West Point likely will have to borrow money to make an estimated $900,000 in repairs to one of its main sewer lines, city leaders agreed this week.

But while it sounds expensive, a simple analogy helps make the choice clear, according to Water and Light Manager Boodro Marsac.

“If you had a water leak in the basement of your house, would you repair the leak or would you keep getting bigger pumps and paying the electricity to run them every time it rains?” Marsac asked during a Board of Selectmen study session. “The smartest answer is to repair it and be done with it the first time.”
The city has three outfall lines that carry sewage from homes and businesses across the city to the city’s two lagoons and its treatment plant.

The east outflow line, which was installed in the late 1950s and early 1960s, is plagued by cracks, breaks and roots grown into the pipes.

When it rains, the pipe, which stretches more than three miles from near Royal Trucking on the north down the east side of the city and then west to a small five-acre lagoon near Section Line Road. That lagoon is connected to a larger lagoon at the city’s treatment plant.

When it rains, the cracks and breaks allow excessive amounts of rainwater and runoff to fill the pipes, running into the small lagoon and ultimately the larger lagoon behind Love’s Truck Stop. Several times since last fall, the lagoons have reached their capacity, almost overflowing. Overflows run the risk of breaching the levee that holds the water.

It also strains the city’s treatment plant, which is licensed to treat 3.5-million gallons a day but at times has been handling four million or more gallons, Marsac said.

That could run the city afoul of state environmental regulations, which could lead to fines by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.

The problem is even more significant because the new Peco partial-fry plant now under construction on West Church Hill Road will add 700,000 gallons a day to the system.

“On a dry day, we’re cruising along at 1.8 million gallons with no problem. But when it’s raining, it’s a different story, we’re struggling to keep our heads above water,” Marsac told selectmen. “We can’t run the risk of the levee on that small lagoon breaking, then we have a real problem.

“We’ve pretty much got to fix what we have and stop the water from coming in. If we do that, we’ll be good. We’ll reduce the wear and tear on our pumps, reduce the light bill because the pumps aren’t running 12 to 18 hours a day, all those things,” he continued.

Having a camera survey the 21,000 feet of the east side outfall line will cost about $100,000. Engineers have estimated it would cost $800,000 to $900,000 to replace some of the pipes and line the others. The pipes are three to four feet deep making them easily accessible except where they sometimes run through the back yards of homes.

“In some places we can replace them pretty easily, in others we can’t, we’ll have to line those areas. Being so shallow is a blessing in some ways and bad in others because that’s what allows all the roots to grow in,” Marsac explained, noting that removing the roots may cause further damage to the pipe.”
The city already has set aside $500,000 to refurbish the water treatment plant this year. That won’t require any borrowing. But correcting the sewer problem will.

“We’ll have to borrow the other money. We hope to get some grant money to help offset some of the costs, but it’s something we really probably need to try to do this year. I don’t think it’s a good idea to risk it too much longer,” Mayor Robbie Robinson said, reminding selectmen the project can be put into next year’s budget which begins July 1.

“I’d rather get it done than pay a fine or deal with the other options,” Marsac echoed.