DU plans to start sewer pipe replacement by June

Bayne Hughes, The Decatur Daily, Ala.
·3 min read

Feb. 28—Decatur Utilities will begin an accelerated sewer replacement plan by June that will initially focus on the Moulton Heights area, the area near Gordon Terry Parkway and Northwest Decatur near Benjamin Davis Elementary School, DU officials said last week.

The plan, which includes the replacement of 50,000 feet of sewer pipe in this initial phase, is contingent on the City Council voting March 15 to approve DU's purchase of $175 million in water and sewer warrants.

In an effort to reduce sewer overflows, DU plans to use $165 million from the bond money for a 10-year plan to replace almost 1 million feet of aging sewer pipe.

DU residential customers will see a $12-per-month increase in their sewer bills beginning with their next billing statements, said DU spokesman Joe Holmes. The amount will rise to $22 per month over three years.

The bills of industrial customers using larger meters are increasing, too. Those on a 6-inch meter are seeing their access fee — a flat cost not dependent on usage — go from $575 to $5,000 a month. The rates on 8-inch meters are increasing from $700 to $6,000 a month.

The remaining bond money will fund a roughly $9 million project that will replace water pipes, including some that are 85 years old, at DU's main water treatment plant on Market Street Northeast. That work won't result in a rate increase.

DU plans to replace about 6,300 feet of cast iron pipe at the water treatment plant and four pumps that each have the capacity to pump 7 million gallons per day.

The water and sewer revenue warrants approved by the DU board Thursday will go to the City Council in the form of an ordinance, which will receive a first reading Monday, with a second reading and vote at the March 15 meeting.

The closing on the warrants is March 18, according to utility Chief Financial Officer Steve Pirkle.

Jimmy Evans, Gas, Water and Wastewater operations manager, said that if the warrants are approved, DU would likely open construction bids in April and construction would start in May or June.

The City Council in January approved an accelerated plan to replace, over 10 years, old sewer pipe with high-density polyethylene pipe, which could last up to 70 years. The old pipe, much of it made of clay, has deteriorated to the point that water enters it during heavy rains and overwhelms the sewer system's capacity.

The city has had major problems with sanitary sewer overflows, especially during heavy rains in the past two years. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management in 2019 sued the utility and asked the court to issue a fine of $25,000 per overflow. The lawsuit cites 251 sewer overflows from April 2014 through Feb. 24, 2019. The case is currently in settlement negotiations, according to court records.

Evans told the DU board Thursday that the city has not had any sewer overflows so far this year after having 15 in February 2020.

Pirkle said DU locked in a 1.96% overall bond rate on Feb. 17, and by grabbing this date, it saved $400,000 over waiting another week.

bayne.hughes@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2432. Twitter @DD_BayneHughes.