Wilkesboro officials expect to spend over $15 million on upgrading the town’s Cub Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant to meet increased demand from the Tyson Foods Inc. chicken processing complex, said Town Manager Ken Noland in a Wilkes Economic Development Corp. board meeting Friday.

“And we need it yesterday, so we’re going to plow forward real fast,” he added.

Noland explained that the good news is that the Tyson chicken processing complex “is running hot, but the bad news is that they are at their capacity and we are at our capacity” for wastewater treatment.

Noland said that Monday night, the Wilkesboro Town Council is expected to authorize a company to conduct a preliminary engineering report on alternatives for increasing the wastewater treatment plant’s capacity and next steps to take.

Wilkesboro officials already communicated with state officials about what is needed.

He said state officials stated but not yet in writing that gallons of wastewater treated at the town plant can be increased as much as town officials want, “but what we’re putting into the (Yadkin) River now is what we’ll be putting in later.”

Noland said this means, for example, that there can be no increase in the biological oxygen demand (BOD) of treated wastewater released into the Yadkin River, regardless of the number of gallons of treated wastewater. BOD is the amount of oxygen required in stream water to break down organic substances like fecal matter, fats, greases and food particles. High BOD levels can deplete oxygen in stream water to the point where it kills aquatic life.

It also means that there can be no increase in total suspended solids and nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.

Noland said Wilkesboro needs more advanced wastewater treatment plant technology to accomplish the limits on what it releases into the Yadkin. “It’s going to be very difficult to do and also very expensive because when you’re doing this you’re probably dealing with cutting edge technology that costs more.”

He said Wilkesboro officials determined that expanding wastewater treatment capacity is a higher need than improving the town’s water filtration plant, despite extensive time and effort spent in recent years on expanding the amount of water available for human consumption.

“We may slow down the water (filtration) plant project some,” but design plans for water processing improvements at the filtration plant are nearly ready to be send to the state as part of a loan application, said Noland.

Storm water problems

He also said recent heavy rain resulted in major storm water problems and new sink holes.

“Tyson had to shut down their plant three times in the last month over flooding into their facility, primarily because of a worn out and inadequate storm drain system on Main Street” and storm water volume exceeding its capacity, said Noland.

“We’re working with Tyson to see if we can’t help them manage this right now…. The state really doesn’t have the ability to go out and do storm water work right now. Their hands have been tied to not spend on anything.”

He said the N.C. Department of Transportation is accepting bids for the state’s portion of a new culvert system planned to address sinkholes on and near the site of a Taco Bell restaurant at the intersection of U.S. 421 and Winkler Mill Road.

Noland said that if the DOT receives a bid that is within budget, the state could approve a contract within 30 days. “We just hope we can get all that work done within a year or so.”

He said another sinkhole of the same caliber appeared along School Street, near the entrance to Wilkesboro Elementary School and across from the Wilkesboro Civic Center.

“It’s 30 to 35 feet deep. We basically took an entire lot and cleared it. We’re at the bottom of it and found some obstruction in the pipe. We’re in the process of getting the obstruction out and rebuilding that portion of the pipe."

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