BETHEL HEIGHTS — The city of Bethel Heights proposes spending about $500,000 on its wastewater treatment system to get it into compliance until a permanent solution is operational.
The city also needs to continue hauling wastewater elsewhere for treatment to eliminate the risk of it surfacing and pooling on the ground, according to a report from engineers hired by the city. The engineers estimated that the hauling would cost about $1 million for the equipment and manpower.
Hawkins-Weir Engineers developed a plan to get the city’s two treatment plants into compliance with state standards for three years, the estimated time it will take the city to build infrastructure to carry its wastewater to the Northwest Arkansas Conservation Authority’s treatment plant in south Bentonville.
The plan was required as part of an agreement the city signed in October with the Arkansas Division of Environmental Quality after the regulating agency found continuing problems with the Bethel Heights plants operating in violation of their permits.
The plan includes repairs and improvements across the system — from individual customers’ septic tanks, to the treatment, filtration, electrical, control, pumping and drip dispersal systems and ground cover on the drip field.
The engineers included a timetable for the repairs with completion in nine months.
The city asked in the plan to defer all repairs to the system until the state approves the engineers’ recommendations.
Jacob Harper, a spokesman for the Environmental Quality Division, said officials are reviewing the plan.
The city did not return two email requests earlier this month and a phone call Friday seeking comment on the plan or its estimated costs.
The plan notes that the city will need to continue hauling wastewater off the site and increase the amount if necessary.
Engineers determined that 47,000 gallons of wastewater should be hauled each day even if the plants are operating at full capacity. The two plants receive an average of 99,000 gallons of wastewater daily, but can treat only 50,486 gallons because of plant deficiencies, the report says.
Engineers recommend that the city buy three trucks and add a crew for hauling, which they say would cost $1 million or 2 cents a gallon during the three-year period that the city needs to develop its permanent treatment plan. Contracting for daily hauling, which the city currently does, would cost $5.6 million or 11 cents a gallon for the same time period.
The engineering proposal also recommended that the city build five, 21,000-gallon storage tanks to store excess wastewater on weekends or at times of peak flow. Cost for the tanks wasn’t included in the report.
The Environmental Quality Division in December and earlier this month found that the city continued to violate its permit by allowing wastewater to pool on top of the ground at its drip fields. The agency asked the city to include in its weekly reports the amount of daily flow of wastewater into the plants, calculations of water to be removed via truck and any wastewater disposals sites the city might be using.
“The current rate of waste water hauled is not sufficient to comply with the corrective action plan and the permit conditions,” says a Dec. 13 letter to the city from the Environmental Quality Division. “An analysis of the current rates of waste water haul off indicates that Bethel Heights is hauling off less waste water than the facility plan recommends.”
Bethel Heights has not met its commitment to prevent pooling or surfacing, says a statement from Harper.
The state ordered the city Aug. 6 to haul away 25%, or no less than 20,000 gallons per day, of its wastewater for treatment elsewhere to prevent pooling of untreated wastewater on the surface of the ground.
In September, the state returned to city officials the decision of when and how much excess wastewater to haul and relaxed the city’s reporting requirements.
The city in August began hauling excess wastewater to the Northwest Arkansas Conservation Authority’s regional treatment plant in Bentonville.
Records provided by Mike Neil, Conservation Authority facility manager, show that the city has been hauling about 23,000 gallons each day to the plant.
Neil said Thursday that the only problem has been the number of trucks making deliveries — six a day.
“I didn’t expect that many, and we’re down an employee right now,” he said. “Someone has to stop whatever they’re doing and go meet the truck.”
He said the plant easily can treat the increased amount of wastewater from the city. The city’s plan for bigger trucks making fewer deliveries a day would ease the manpower situation.
Neil expects to hire a new employee in the next few months.
In November, B ethel Heights submitted to the state its choice for long-term management of its wastewater. The city has set a three-year goal to hook to the wastewater treatment plant operated by the Conservation Authority.
The state asked the city in December to contact other local municipal wastewater treatment systems about taking Bethel Heights’ waste in the interim.
Water utilities in neighboring Rogers and Springdale have issued statements noting that wastewater services are reserved for customers inside their respective city limits and other customers already served.
Springdale Water Utilities put a moratorium in June on adding any new water service for customers served by Bethel Heights’ sewer system at the state’s request.
Lawrence Bowen, who lives on property adjacent to the Bethel Heights main plant on Lincoln Street, reported last week that untreated wastewater continues to drain onto his land. A complaint by Bowen in April to the Division of Environmental Quality started the state’s latest investigation.
The state asked for a corrective action plan from the city in May, due Aug. 8. The city was fined eight days after submitting the report for an inadequate plan and for failing to notify the state about levels of contaminates found in weekly test results of water pooling at the plants.
In October, the city agreed to the state’s conditions for repairs and removing wastewater in exchange for suspending $100,000 of the $120,000 fines.