The Oak Ridge City Council on Monday will consider hiring an engineering company to evaluate the city’s 70-year-old water plant. There are questions about whether Oak Ridge and the U.S. Department of Energy should continue to invest money in the water plant, build a new one at a new site, or consider other alternatives.
The Council on Monday will consider awarding a $98,250 contract to Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. of Knoxville to evaluate the plant. Jacobs Engineering has offices in Oak Ridge.
The city’s 1940s-era water treatment plant is on Pine Ridge above the Y-12 National Security Complex, and it provides water to businesses and residents of Oak Ridge, as well as to DOE.
“The plant is currently 70-plus years old and continues to show signs of aging despite efforts over the last 15 years to modernize and upgrade,” said Shira McWaters, the new Oak Ridge Public Works director. “Many of the plant’s assets are near or have exceeded their useful life cycle and require replacement or major rehabilitation.”
Discussions about the future of the current plant came up as the city and DOE negotiated a contract extension for water supplied to Y-12 and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
The plant was originally built and operated by a DOE predecessor. DOE gave the plant to the city about 16 years ago. It has a maximum capacity of 28 million gallons per day, but current average daily demand is in the range of nine to 10 million gallons per day, with peaks at 12 to 14 million.
“The city has become concerned about operating the existing Water Treatment Plant for the next 20 years,” the Jacobs Engineering request for proposal said.
If Council approves the contract, Jacobs Engineering is expected to submit a final report by December 30, 2016.
The Oak Ridge City Council on Tuesday, March 29, approved a one-year, $2.1 million contract extension for water supplied to ORNL and Y-12. The one-year extension is expected to give the city time to have a qualified third-party engineering firm study the city’s aging water plant on Pine Ridge above Y-12, consider what is needed, and develop options that could help Oak Ridge decide whether to renovate the 70-year-old facility—or build a new one at a new site.
“Since the City of Oak Ridge has taken over the operation and maintenance of the water treatment facility, approximately $7.2 million has been invested in several major and minor projects, and it is currently unknown what additional capital investment is needed to keep the plant operational long term,” McWaters said in a March 31 memo to City Manager Mark Watson.
Among the problems cited at the March 29 special meeting is a leak of about 3,000 gallons per day. The city staff is not sure where the leak originates or whether the water that is leaking has already been treated, and so far they haven’t been able to stop the leak.
There is also some slope instability at the ridge top site that could affect access and erosion. That doesn’t make the plant unusable, but it could add to the cost of renovations, McWaters said.
“The goal of the evaluation is to determine if the city and DOE should continue long-term investment in the existing plant, or if it will be more beneficial to construct a new plant at a different location or identify additional alternatives,” McWaters said in the memo to Watson.
The Oak Ridge Public Works management staff and the director evaluated the qualifications of six engineering firms, and selected Jacobs Engineering for the water plant evaluation, McWaters said. The company has significant experience in the water industry and has completed similar studies for water treatment facilities and many water treatment plant designs, McWaters said.
Also, the local offices of Jacobs Engineering have completed projects for DOE in Oak Ridge and are familiar with the condition of several DOE structures and are experienced working with DOE, she said.
The Monday night meeting of the Oak Ridge City Council starts at 7 p.m. April 11 in the Oak Ridge Municipal Building Courtroom. See the agenda here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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