Lucama accepts state water grant

Work to begin 6 months ahead of schedule

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LUCAMA — Acting in advance of an expected offer from the state on a $2.2 million grant, the Lucama Board of Commissioners voted to accept funding and abide by conditions of a plan that will rehabilitate the town’s entire drinking water distribution system.

Joe Dooley, a consultant with the Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments, recommended the board accept the state’s offer despite not having received the formal letter from the North Carolina Division of Water Infrastructure.

Dooley assured commissioners that the state approved the grant but the letter had not arrived. The board’s approval Monday will eliminate the need to call a special meeting for the purpose of accepting the offer between regular meetings.

Lucama has two N.C. Division of Water Infrastructure funding packages to help the town improve its drinking water system.

Both packages have been fast-tracked by the state Department of Environmental Quality in response to pressure from residents who garnered political support right to the office of Gov. Roy Cooper.

The first, a $488,990 grant/loan package, involves two activities, renovation of Well No. 3 and the replacement of the filter media at the water treatment plant to help address iron levels in the water system, according to Rich Moore, an engineer with McDavid Associates, Inc.

“The state has approved those bid and design packages and has authorized receipt of bids on those projects, so we have moved forward,” Moore said. “We have established a bid date of Feb. 7 to receive bids. You will award it at a board meeting after that. So you are looking at construction in the mid-springtime by the time you execute contract documents and get those formally approved by the state.”

Moore said the town is well ahead of its planned milestones for the project, which originally would have seen construction begin by Aug. 1. The accelerated plan is now about six months ahead of schedule.

Dooley said Vincent Tomaino, branch head for the N.C. Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, helped accelerate the milestones for both grants.

The second project is the $2,227,200 grant for which an approval letter is expected any day.

For that grant, Moore submitted an engineering report in October.

Moore said there was some duplication of scope between those two projects and in the engineering report, modifications were made to take advantage of that 100 percent grant money to further address water quality issues in the town.

“What we have done in the $2 million project is that not only are we going to replace all of the galvanized water lines in town, we are recommending a 6-inch water line extension on Little Rock Church Road to eliminate some dead-end lines out there, provide some renovations to your existing wells 1 and 2, add generators to all of your well sites, update your electrical control system, install some automatic flushing hydrants at the end of some of your dead-end water lines,” Moore said. “Right now your town personnel are flushing your system, which is good, but it is a strain on your manpower resources and so what we are going to recommend is to put some of these automatic hydrants on there and program them to flush them at night when the use is low. You have got to keep the system flushed to keep your chlorine residuals up and prevent that iron and bacteria from growing in your water lines.”

Moore said the town received comments on the engineering report from the state in December and issued responses on Dec. 31.

“We have incorporated rehabilitation of all of your cast iron water lines,” Moore said. “I am not saying that those existing cast iron water lines are in bad shape or that they are contributing significant leaks, but we know that they have got that biofilm, that iron bacteria growth that has occurred over time on the inside of those pipes. We know that it is still there and we need to get it out.”

Flushing helps, but flushing doesn’t remove those iron particles from those pipes, Moore said.
Moore said swabbing of lines has been added to the rehabilitation activities.

“You can think of kind of running something like a Q-tip through those water lines that will help extract the iron buildup on the inside of those pipes and allow them to be flushed out of your system,” Moore said.

The project will address Lucama’s entire distribution system starting at the water plant and reaching out to all distribution lines.

Only six-inch lines will be installed. There will be no more two-inch lines on the completed system.

“It’s an opportunity increasing to six to where you can put additional hydrants on your system and really help your citizens out,” Moore said. “We went ahead and mapped all of the distribution facilities in anticipation that the approval process will take place.”

Moore said the goal is to have the $2.2 million project follow the $488,990 project by a couple of months, even though they were initially awarded a year apart.

The construction milestone for the $2.2 million project was slated to begin Aug. 3, 2020, but with the new schedule, it will be more than a year ahead.

“Let’s go ahead and implement them both at the same time as much as we can,” Moore said. “That is our objective.”

There were no objections from commissioners, who voted unanimously to accept the state funding.