BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The Mosheim Board of Mayor and Aldermen held a workshop on Wednesday afternoon to consider options available concerning possible upgrades of the town's wastewater treatment plant, including a possible $3 million upgrade.
The planned five-building US Nitrogen complex, soon to be under construction off Pottertown Road in the Midway area, will require large amounts of water.
In addition to manufacturing liquid ammonium nitrate solution, its main product, the plant will also manufacture nitric acid and ammonia that are used in the production of the liquid ammonium nitrate.
This process will require a large volume of water and electricity, and will produce increased amounts of wastewater.
The company expects to spend more than $20 million per year on natural gas, water and electricity supplied by local utilities, according to a recent news release.
Kathy Walden, the president of W&W Engineering, who frequently advises Mosheim on infrastructure issues, said that representatives of US Nitrogen have held preliminary discussions on where the company should connect to a wastewater treatment plant.
She said the company has indicated two available options -- connect to Mosheim's system, or connect to a proposed regional pipeline with a wastewater treatment plant at Lowland in Hamblen County.
If US Nitrogen was to connect to Mosheim's plant, the 250,000 gallons a day that Alderman Tommy Gregg said the company would pump into the wastewater system would put the plant at capacity.
He noted that the daily amount of wastewater from US Nitrogen will be approximately equivalent to the amount that the Mt. Pleasant Industrial Park produces in one month.
Mosheim's system is currently capable of processing a maximum 975,000 gallons a day and currently runs an average 625,000 gallons per day, Gregg said.
The state, he added, only allows a system to reach approximately 88 percent capacity -- which is just below where Mosheim would be if US Nitrogen hooks into the system as it currently stands.
This, he said, would effectively put a moratorium on the Mosheim wastewater system, not allowing any additional growth unless Mosheim upgraded the system.
FOCUS ON 3 OPTIONS
On Wednesday the board focused much of its attention on three available options for the town:
* taking no action;
* adding US Nitrogen and then upgrading the town's system; or,
* closing Mosheim's treatment facility and connecting to the proposed regional pipeline.
The board began discussions focusing on the regional pipeline option.
The pipeline has been a topic of conversation in Greene County for about the past five years.
In 2010, the board heard a presentation on Lowland's large-capacity former Enka treatment facility from Randy Corlew, who at the time was an engineer with Wilbur Smith Associates, of Knoxville. The firm recently merged to become CDM Smith.
Corlew announced at the time that Morristown owns and operates the plant, but was treating far below the permitted capacity of almost 7 million gallons per day.
A proposal by Morristown and the previous private owner to link several counties' sewers into a 23-mile pipeline down the Interstate 81 corridor for treatment at the former Enka plant first came in 2008 to the East Tennessee Regional Agribusiness Marketing Authority (E-TRAMA), which includes nine Northeast Tennessee counties.
In 2010, Corlew said that the Nolichucky River Regional Sewer Operations Board would be engaged in overseeing the pipeline to the plant.
LOWLAND PLAN A GAMBLE?
However, the board voted unanimously not to pursue the proposal.
This was clearly still in the forefront of the Mosheim board members' minds on Wednesday, as several expressed their concern that Mosheim would be the only entity to connect and would be left to pay the bulk of the maintenance expenses under contract.
Alderman Harold Smith also expressed his concern that the project would require a much higher number of pumps along the pipeline than the two included in the Lowland proposal.
Several members agreed that the project still appears to be a "gamble."
"We'd be having prayer meetings that others will hook on," Alderman Dave Long said. "We don't have to accept an unknown. A little town like this can't deal with contingencies and unknowns."
Gregg said that a benefit to the regional pipeline would be the potential to attract industries to the region, but added that Mosheim could go ahead with upgrading its own treatment plant and opt to hook onto the regional line if it becomes more feasible.
GROWTH NEED RECOGNIZED
As for their other options, several board members said that not taking action was not an option at all.
"We've got to have growth," Smith said. "I think our only choice is to expand our plant when [US Nitrogen] comes through."
Alderman Claude Weems Jr. agreed.
Gregg indicated that this may be the best time for Mosheim to upgrade the system, as US Nitrogen has also offered to provide up to $800,000 upfront to assist with water and sewer upgrades needed in the first phase of the company's implementation into the town's systems.
This would include the pump station at the company's location, as well as the line leading out to the company, Walden said.
Gregg repeatedly emphasized that there should be no harm (such as increased charges) to Mosheim's current customers if connecting US Nitrogen prompts such upgrades.
He later said that the company's estimated monthly bill for wastewater treatment will likely fall around $30,000, which should cover the necessary payments toward any loans for future upgrades.
Walden estimated that increasing the capacity of Mosheim's wastewater system to 1.5 million gallons per day would likely cost about $3 million.
However, she said that the town will also be eligible for grants and special low-interest loans.
This upgrade would also leave about 600,000 gallons a day for growth, Gregg said.
Walden noted that the board will need to make its decision soon, as it can take years to apply, receive the grants and loans, and get the work completed.
The board plans to vote on the matter during its next meeting, scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 26, at 7 p.m. at Mosheim Town Hall.