As it prepares for an influx of residents in the coming years, Pittsboro has come up with a solution for handling the additional sewage: send it 20 miles south, across the county line, to Sanford.
The Pittsboro Board of Commissioners this week approved a 30-year contract with the city to treat up to 2 million gallons of wastewater per day beginning in May 2018.
Pittsboro’s population has doubled since the mid-1990s, to about 4,000, but that pales compared to what’s coming. Chatham Park, a 7,000-acre development of homes and businesses that is expected add 60,000 residents in the next 40 years, has begun to take shape.
“Even if we didn’t have Chatham Park coming, we have gotten to the point where our sewer plant is at capacity,” Pittsboro Mayor Cindy Perry said.
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Pittsboro’s Waste Treatment Plant has a capacity of 750,000 gallons per day. Sanford’s Big Buffalo Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is 14 miles from the Pittsboro plant on the Deep River, has a capacity of 12 million gallons per day – well beyond the 4.5 million gallons the city needs.
Sanford officials and staff said the increased flow will help make treatment cheaper for both Sanford and Pittsboro because most of the costs are fixed. Sanford already is treating wastewater for Goldston, a town of a few hundred residents in southern Chatham County.
“We have lots of capacity based on geography and foresight by previous leaders,” Sanford Mayor Chet Mann said. “We are a big believer in regional collaboration in this day and age. We are learning that business doesn’t stop at county lines.”
But Sanford can’t begin treating Pittsboro’s wastewater until the town constructs a force main transmission line along U.S. 15-501 to the Sanford wastewater system. The pipe is expected to be completed in 2019 and cost $21 million, which will be funded through a loan from the state’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund.
The $21 million also will help pay to refurbish the town’s plant to replace aging equipment and add new treatment units to help meet future requirements, according to the town’s funding application.
Sanford’s wastewater treatment is estimated to cost Pittsboro $927,000 in 2020. This includes the cost of treating the wastewater plus an additional “capacity charge” to help Sanford repay some of the debt incurred to build the treatment facility. The developers of Chatham Park will pay 62.5 percent of the capacity charge – or an estimated $279,000 in 2020 – based on anticipated need. Chatham Park also will pay 62.5 percent of the debt incurred constructing the force main line.
The pipe to Sanford will be only the first phase in Pittsboro’s efforts to accommodate the future wastewater needs of a growing population. Pittsboro officials and staff anticipate reaching the 2 million gallon per day that Sanford would treat around 2025.
“This is a stopgap,” said Perry, the mayor. “It’ll take us maybe out 10 years or so, but eventually, we are thinking that a regional wastewater treatment plant will be needed.”
Pittsboro Town Manager Bryan Gruesbeck said town officials and staff hoped to have a plan on how to provide sufficient wastewater capacity as far out as 2035 within the next year. Chatham Park also is proposing a wastewater facility with an initial capacity of 250,000 gallons per day that could be expanded to 500,000 gallons, he said.
Perry said a regional facility could one day treat wastewater from Pittsboro and other Chatham County towns, as well as areas farther away, such as western Wake County.
“It’s that kind of regional cooperation that is really needed,” she said. “And it’s exemplified by Pittsboro’s relationship with Sanford.”
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-829-4845: @KTrogdon