Mount Ida submits plan for sewage pond

By David Showers
This article was published June 26, 2018 at 4:00 a.m.

Sewer rates will be evaluated as part of the funding process for repairs to the levee separating the holding pond at Mount Ida's wastewater plant from the Lake Ouachita watershed, according to a corrective action plan the city submitted in response to its breach of the levee during a high-water event earlier this year.

The plan submitted to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality last month said current monthly rates of $10.27 for the first 1,000 gallons and $2.10 for every subsequent 1,000 gallons will be reviewed. Loans, grants or a combination of both have been identified as possible funding sources. The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and U.S. Department of Agriculture have been contacted about funding the project, according to the plan.

"Both agencies are preparing to advise the city on how they can best serve the needs of the community," the plan, submitted on the city's behalf last month by Landmark Engineering of Conway, said. "The intent is for this project to be done during the late summer and early fall months of this year. Completion of the project prior to the next rainy season is of paramount concern to the facility."

The plan said repairs are expected to be completed by October, with funding secured by August. ADEQ has conditionally approved the plan, which it requested after the city breached the levee in March to keep it from collapsing. The city told The Sentinel-Record in April the basin was holding untreated wastewater when 3,875,000 gallons were released into the south fork of the Ouachita River.

According to data provided by ADEQ, samples collected and analyzed by the third-party provider the plant contracts to submit discharge monitoring reports to the state showed the release had levels of biochemical oxygen demand at almost four times the permitted amount.

BOD is a measurement of water pollution, showing how much oxygen microorganisms are using to consume organic matter in the water. The sample's pH level was also over the limit, but total suspended solids and E. coli were well below permitted levels.

The breach occurred from March 2 to 13, ADEQ said, lowering the basin by 15 inches and allowing the inside of the levee to be reinforced with fill dirt. The outside had been compromised by the river, which left its banks as a result of heavy rains in February.

"The city received a record setting 19-plus inches of rain during one event in February," the plan said. "This extraordinary amount of rainfall caused the South Fork River to have very high flows, and once the flows rescinded, a portion of the already eroded bank of the river sloughed off leaving the interior of the sewer basin exposed and subject to collapse.

"During this time the equalization basin was above its normal pool level and approaching the top of the levee."

After informing ADEQ's Office of Water Quality of the breach, the plant invoked the provision in its discharge permit allowing untreated wastewater releases if loss of life, personal injury or severe property damage cannot otherwise be prevented. According to the permit, a release under those circumstances is protected from enforcement action.

The plant operator told the newspaper in April the levee had been stabilized with fill dirt, but ADEQ required a plan for permanent repairs be submitted.

The plant operator said one of three pumps that feed the plant was diverting flow to the basin during the rain event. The 10-acre basin holds high-volume flows until the plant can treat and release them into the south fork of the Ouachita River, which ADEQ has permitted to receive treated flows from the plant. Rainwater seeping into the collection system didn't cause the high flows, according to the plan.

"We do not feel that it is a deficiency of the collection system that led to the pond reaching its total capacity, but rather an act of nature," the plan said. "To make sure that the system did not experience any additional damage to any creek crossings or other facilities, the city will be monitoring flows into the pump stations and the plant and comparing that to flow data from the previous year."

According to the plan, the plant serves 494 customers and a population of more than 1,000. The plant operator said the facility can treat up to 600,000 gallons a day. It is the only facility permitted to discharge treated municipal wastewater into the Lake Ouachita watershed.

Local on 06/26/2018
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