Utilities board briefed on Fresh Mark project

The Salem Utilities Commission received a brief update from a Fresh Mark representative Tuesday on the company’s project to upgrade and expand its on-site production wastewater treatment plant.

“You’ll start seeing dramatic improvements in October,” Bill Yeager, Fresh Mark corporate director of engineering, said regarding product waste coming into the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

He also offered to give city officials a tour of the facilities so they can see the improvements for themselves.

“We’re trying to be good corporate citizens,” he said.

When asked about the project, Yeager explained they’re improving the effectiveness of the grease removal system and providing capabilities for future improvements. He said the biggest improvement is the addition of a large flow equalization tank, which means the product waste will be placed in the tank and sent at a slower pace into the city’s system instead of a large volume at once.

City Assistant Utilities Superintendent Matt Hoopes said the city plant will receive the waste in a more consistent flow, which is much better for treatment.

The city is currently making upgrades to its own wastewater treatment plant on Pennsylvania Avenue, with Phase 1 recently started and two additional phases expected. According to city Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart, the ultimate goal is to reduce the amount of phosphorous, with the state expected to set a requirement for lower phosphorous levels.

In a related matter to the Phase 1 project, Weingart said work has begun and he’s expecting the building to be under roof by Dec. 1 and equipment to be delivered between December and January.

Commission member Geoff Goll asked that Weingart and Hoopes reiterate with the general contractor that the commission would appreciate local subcontractors be given some work. Commission Chairman Bob Hodgson said that was done during a meeting with the general contractor. Goll asked that it be repeated.

“I agree with Mr. Goll. It’s better to tell them too often than not enough,” commission Vice Chairman Bennie Funderburg said.

In other business, Weingart said they’ll be looking at enforcement of rules regarding grease trap maintenance by businesses. A recent incident partially caused by an accumulation of grease in a sewer line on East State Street is costing the commission due to what happened when the city had to jet a blockage.

The city received a call on Aug. 13 from Salem Sewer and Drain Co. regarding the plugged up sewer near Hunt Valve. City workers attempted to open the sewer the normal way by jetting against the flow, but could not break through the grease until they jetted with the flow. The action caused the grease and pressure to be forced back into the basements of Patricia Edling and Margret Stewart, both in the 1800 block of East State Street.

The commission agreed to pay $830 to Stewart for the cleaning expense she incurred and $200 to Edling for damage to a toilet seal.

Weingart told commission members he’s looking at proposing rules for restaurants to keep the grease out of the sewer, saying it was evident grease traps were not being emptied out on a regular basis.

A water leak survey completed on 125 miles of utility department water mains by Underground Utility Service found six individual leaks which have since been fixed. The leaks were found on Southeast Boulevard, South Lincoln Avenue, East Perry Street, Newgarden Avenue, East State Street and a hydrant on Westview.

Weingart said the largest leak found in the 2300 block of Southeast Boulevard was going into a storm sewer at a rate of 15 gallons per minute. Over time, if it had not been caught, he said the leak had the potential to cost $16,000 in a year for lost water of more than 7.8 millon gallons per year.

Hodgson said the $10,000 cost for the survey was well worth it.

In other matters, the commission agreed to forgive $293 of a sewer bill for Lou Ramunno, who reported he was away for two weeks and came home to find a note from the city utilities department about a difference in his water usage for a huge amount of water. He learned a toilet was running and had the problem fixed.

In these situations, the commission routinely reduces the sewer side of the bill down to the average normal reading since it was clean water going through the system. As for the water side, they don’t grant any reductions because any water that goes through the meter is the customer’s responsibility.

A water tap was granted for Sam Farmer of Gamble Road off of the existing 24-inch ductile iron water main near the water plant next to the Salem Reservoir.

The next commission meeting is set for 3 p.m. Oct. 8.