ARWA representative gives recommendations for LaFayette water system

Published 10:00 am Friday, December 24, 2021

At LaFayette’s council meeting on Monday, Katie Hill, Alabama Rural Water Association director of training and apprenticeship coordinator, was present to discuss an ARWA system assessment.

“As you’re aware, a couple of months ago, we started a full-system evaluation of the water system,” Hill said. “We did not do the wastewater. We just mainly did the water system. I sent a report — I’m sure all of you got a copy of it. We made some recommendations of some things that need to be done.”

Hill said the city had already applied for a Community Development Block Grant to rehab the intake structure of the water plant, which Hill said ARWA believes is necessary. She said ARWA recommended waiting on the grant or seeking other funding to rehab the intake structure.

“One of the biggest things that we found when we were reviewing the plant was — and I believe this is already budgeted for this year — is the lime feeder at the water plant is in desperate need of being replaced,” Hill said. “I believe that’s one of the issues that may be causing some of the dirty water complaints. A mixture of that along with some things that are going on in the distribution system are probably going to be the most prominent cause of the actual dirty water.”

Hill said the plant’s filter turbidimeters need to be replaced because when they’re damaged, the plant has five days to repair them, and the parts for its current turbidimeters aren’t made anymore.

“Any major upgrade that is to be done any time to any treatment plant after the year of 2006, you have to have a minimum of certain things at your treatment facility,” she said. “When the water treatment plant was designed back in 1982, it only had one flocculator. Well now, a requirement before you can do any upgrade … you have to have a minimum of two flocculators.”

Hill said a new flocculator would cost a minimum of $100,000.

She said the plant had a new corrosion inhibitor, which the city had taken on a bid, and that it hadn’t been tested. She explained that with the water chemistry of any water system, the corrosion inhibitor is one of the most overlooked chemicals that can cause water treatment plant problems because it changes drastically in the distribution system based on temperature and pH changes.

“And with the lime machine not working properly all the time, that pH is going up and down,” she said.

Hill recommended using metal strips called corrosion coupons to test corrosion in the water system to see if the corrosion inhibitor is working properly, which she said wouldn’t cost much..

She said LaFayette’s water is naturally very corrosive. Additionally, she said that the plant’s sludge collector needs to be rehabbed.

“As part of the report, we went through the actual water being pumped versus water being sold, and the actual percentage of loss that’s being reported to the state every month is based on estimation because there’s no way to actually determine the amount that’s being lost,” she said.

Hill said that the water distribution system may pump a certain amount of water but sell significantly less.

She said she believed there are a substantial number of leaks in the system.

“We cannot come and help and assist in leak detection until the valves that are not working properly are repaired,” she said.

Hill said the industrial tank, meant to feed an industrial park, and a county tank are out of service. She said the city could put the industrial tank back into service by removing a check valve. She said the county tank may also have a problem with a valve and that when it would be filled, it wouldn’t allow other tanks to be filled.

Hill recommended that the city continue its meter replacement program and implement a flushing program to be done in the fall and spring. She also recommended that an employee working with the distribution system get a certification so they could serve as backup if another certified employee couldn’t work. She said this would put the system in compliance with new regulations.

Hill recommended that the city prepare to have a study done to determine how much money the water system is making. She said the city needs to increase its water rates.

“One thing I do want to bring up is you need to start planning on renovating the treatment plant and doing some other things, and you need to go ahead and have a plan in place because there are going to be some funding opportunities that are going to become available very quickly after the first of the year that you may be eligible for,” she said. “But without having something on paper and having something in place, you’re going to be behind the eight ball when everybody else can apply for that money.”

Hill recommended that the city prepare a wishlist and apply for any grants that could help it improve its water system.

Prior to the council meeting, the LaFayette City Council held a public hearing to discuss the City of LaFayette Zoning and Planning Commission’s recommendation to allow a package store or similar enterprise to sell certain alcoholic beverages to be consumed off-premises within B-3 general business zones.

City Attorney Joseph Tucker described two B-3 general business zones in LaFayette, one of which includes a shopping center, DHR and the nursing home across the street from the DHR.

“Those are the areas that we’re talking about specifically,” he said. “Our current zoning ordinance allows a lot of permitted uses, but there was no actual naming of a package store or any businesses that sell alcoholic beverages other than beer and wine for off-premises consumption listed in the permitted uses in the general business district.”

No one from the public made comments during the public hearing.