Study under way on Dobson water plant

By Keith Strange Staff Reporter

December 19, 2013

DOBSON —A pilot study is under way on a project designed to bring the town of Dobson’s water treatment plant into compliance with state regulations.

According to Town Manager Josh Smith, the project, expected to cost somewhere between $1 million and $1.8 million, involves constructing a system that will handle solids in the town’s water system that are discharged during water treatment.

“Right now, we have to develop a means to divert some of the sludge produced at the plant away from state waterways or tributaries,” he said. “When you make water, there are chemicals and other material in the water that are discharged as a solid, and we have to come up with a way to dispose of these remaining solids. Right now, we don’t have a way to handle it, and the state mandates it.”

Smith said the town is considering two different scenarios for the process.

“One of these is the belt press method, which would work by funneling the solids through a large belt press,” he said. “The water would be squeezed out and that would leave only solids that could then be taken away.”

If the town finds the belt press is the only way to go, it would cost around $1.8 million, according to the town manager.

“This option is very expensive, and would cost the town an extra $800,000 if we have to go that direction,” he said.

The other, preferable method of filtering the solids is a dewatering box that uses gravity and a large “coffee-type” filter to separate the solids from the water.

“It’s kind of like a giant coffee filter that allows the water to drain, leaving nothing but the solids,” Smith said.

The dewatering box is expected to cost in the neighborhood of $1 million.

But Smith said the ongoing study is the only way to determine which way to go.

“Unfortunately, we have to conduct this pilot study to determine whether the dewatering box will be feasible,” he said. “The results of the study will tell us whether it will be effective or whether we’re going to have to go with the belt press to come into compliance with state regulations.”

Smith said at this point contractors are in the initial phase of the pilot study, and are looking at the town’s water itself.

“We anticipate that the entire study will be completed by February,” he said.

According to Smith, either option will have a significant impact on the town’s budget, but he said the town has secured a grant from the North Carolina Rural Center that will fund around $500,000 of the cost.

“If we can go with the dewatering box and keep the construction within budget, the total cost to the town will be $500,000 or less,” he said.

The town, he said, will take the money from its reserve fund to finance the project.

Reach Keith Strange at or 719-1929.