City council votes for sewer clarifier funding

In his 40 years of working for sewer departments, Randy Hamilton said he has never seen a piece of equipment fail quite like a clarifier has at the Seymour Water Pollution Control Facility.

Responsible for removing solid particles from wastewater, the tank has been inoperable since April, leaving the city in violation of its permit with the Environmental Protection Agency, Hamilton said.

On Monday night, city council members voted to issue up to $3 million in bonds to replace the clarifier, one of three the sewer plant uses in the process to “clean” wastewater that has been treated before it’s discharged into the East Fork White River.

Hamilton said it’s not the department’s fault the clarifier quit working; however, it is the city’s responsibility to fix the problem.

In this case, the equipment can’t be repaired and must be replaced with a whole new apparatus, Hamilton said. The project will take up to 18 months to complete.

It’s an unusual situation because the equipment isn’t that old, he added.

“In the condition they are normally in, they should last 50 years,” Hamilton said. “This one, however, has been in service roughly 15 years, and it imploded from the bottom up.”

All three clarifiers were put in service in 2004 as part of a $17 million project to increase the treatment plant’s capacity from 4.3 million gallons to 8.7 million per day.

“We haven’t seen or experienced any issues with either of the other ones,” Hamilton said. “Although, with what has happened

with this one, we are a little concerned because they were all built at the same time by the same contractor with the same design.”

The $3 million bonds will be paid back using sewer utility revenue, but Hamilton said he hopes the city’s insurance provider will reimburse some of the cost. He’s not confident that will happen, though, he said.

“The insurance company had a forensic engineering company come in, examine it and see what happened,” he said. “It’s catastrophic. There’s no fixing it. We’re going to have to redo it because of what took place.

“We’re hoping that insurance does pay for something in regards to this, but in my conversation with them, it’s not an ‘act of God,’ so I don’t know how that plays into the deal,” he added. “That’s the answer they are presently giving, so I don’t feel real confident that we will get a whole lot of reimbursement.”

Hamilton said he has requested that insurance at least pay for the investigation.

“They requested the investigation, and I think they should pay for it,” he said. “But they don’t cover design flaws, material flaws or construction flaws.”

Councilman Lloyd Hudson said they are waiting on a report from the insurance company.

“But in the meantime, we’re going to be in trouble if we don’t get this fixed,” Hudson said.

Hamilton has his own opinions about what happened but said it would be premature to say until the report from the forensic engineer is presented.

“I’ve been doing this for 40 years, and there are some problems there,” he said. “I’ve never seen or even heard of this happening.”

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.