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Sludge Removal System Project Set to Begin in Early 2016

BY MELANIE BUCK –

A bid was awarded to Mullen Construction, LLC at Monday night’s monthly Mena Water Utilities Commission meeting for the construction of a pad at Mena’s Sewer Plant that will be used to implement their new sludge removal system. Mullen’s accepted bid of $58,461.60 will be used to complete the dirt work portion of the project that is expected to begin the first week of January 2016.

Mena Water Utilities Manager Charles Pitman said, “We’ve spent five years on this project so it’s really exciting to get to this point. It was made possible by the sewer rate increase that just went into effect in December. We hope to be able to start the sludge removal process in April with the funds from the increase.”

Pitman explained that once the pad is built, the next step will be to advertise for bids on geotubes that will be used to store the sludge that is pumped from the sewage ponds.

“It will take about three weeks for 10,000 tons of sludge to be removed from the pond,” said Pitman. Once the sludge is removed from the pond and placed into the geotubes, the drying process begins. This occurs as the water drains from the geotubes over time, leaving a mixture that resembles potting soil. Once dry, the tubes are cut open and the contents are transported to pastures as fertilizer. “The alternative is to put it in a tanker and dump it in pastures, wet. This method allows them to be more efficient with time and it’s easier to spread than the tanker trucks are,” Pitman said.

Pitman explained in August’s Mena City Council meeting that the plant is 43 years old and it takes extra chemicals to treat the sewage properly, costing the City more money. The geotube system will not only be economically sound for the city, it will also keep added traffic off of the road to the sewer plant. Pitman said that the last time sludge was removed from the sewer pond, it took 3,300 18-wheeler loads, costing $1.3 million dollars plus an extra $200,000 that was paid to the County for the repair of the road that those 18-wheelers traveled. With the new system, the sewage is pumped into geotubes and dried before being hauled away and used for fertilizer, a process that would only require a dump truck. Pitman explained that the sewer pond could now be cleaned once or twice a year instead of once every 10-20 years.

Also discussed during Monday night’s meeting by the Commission was the One-Month and Twelve-Month water loss. Although the Twelve-Month water loss is still high due to levels earlier in the year, the One-Month loss has decreased dramatically and was at 22 this month, compared to being in the 30’s in earlier months.

The bi-annual flushing of Mena’s water lines is in full force this week, even amidst flooding conditions. Pitman said the process was going well. The north side of Highway 71 was set to be flushed on Monday and Tuesday, while the south side of the Highway, including the Nunley and Board Camp areas, is set to be performed on Wednesday and Thursday.

Pitman reported that, as of Monday, Irons Fork Lake is up by approximately 23 feet. “It’s not up to the emergency spillway, and doesn’t seem to be rising any more,” Pitman said. He also said that the water is a little stirred up and they are using slightly more treatment in the water to compensate, but not an excessive difference.

Also announced at the meeting was that January’s Mena Water Utilities Commission meeting has been moved to Wednesday, January 27th, at 5 p.m. in the Water Office Conference Room.

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