Enquirer Herald

More water testing ahead

CLOVER -- It's going to take more money and extra testing to determine why an unusually high amount of ammonia is in Clover's wastewater.

The town transfers wastewater to the city of Gastonia, N.C., the town's water supplier, for treatment. For more than a year Clover has been out of compliance, and the higher levels have cost Clover more than $35,000 in penalty surcharges.

Now the town plans additional sampling that could cost up to $20,000.

"This has been a curse," Town Administrator Allison Harvey said.

In October, Harvey hired a consultant to look into the problem.

In a memo to the town, Joseph McGougan from Marziano and McGougan Consulting Engineers recommended sampling flows from each pump station for the next three months and calculating the combined average. That number should be compared to samples taken by Gastonia, he said, to see if the water stagnates during the 10-mile journey from Clover to Gastonia.

If that doesn't provide conclusive results, then pretreatment is the best option, he wrote. But that would require rehabilitating an older plant and installing a new aeration system, along with other modifications, which could cost between $200,000 and $250,000, according to the memo.

"Obviously we intend to pursue the least costly course of action," Harvey said. "We'll test for three months beginning in January to see if we can pinpoint where the discharge of ammonia into the system occurs."

The cost for the composite sampling will be $10,000 to $20,000, depending on if they do it weekly or twice a month, Harvey said.

"I'm leaning more toward doing it for two weeks and seeing where the data leads us," Harvey said.

Town officials contend the ammonia build-up is in the long travel time. If, however, they learn it's from one particular business or area, then the town will take a series of steps to cut down on the elements, including chemical treatments and blowing air, Harvey said.

"Putting chemicals throughout the entire system is expensive, but if we were able to isolate our treatment then it wouldn't be as costly," Harvey said.

The town also is developing a pretreatment program that allows it to set limits and pass down fines for violations.

The ammonia exceeds limits only in the town's wastewater. Drinking water supplies are not in danger and town officials insist there is no health risk to water customers.