Smithfield Herald

Johnston County seeking to borrow more money for sewer fixes

Johnston County is seeking to borrow more money to repair and study its aging sewer system.

After applying for a $1.2 million state loan in March, county commissioners this month approved another application – this time for $1.3 million – for additional upgrades.

The first application seeks money to repair and replace infrastructure at Holt Lake, on Buffalo Road and along U.S. 301 from White Swan to the Neuse River south of Smithfield.

The second application is for money to test and repair faulty lines just east and south of Smithfield and at the Interstate 40-N.C. 42 interchange in the Cleveland community.

“As the infrastructure ages, it’s necessary, particularly on these older systems that often have concrete pipes,” said Chandra Coats, the county’s public utilities director. “With newer lines, like PVC, hopefully we won’t have to look at those as often.”

Coats said the repairs will prevent rain water from seeping into sewer lines, which increases the amount of flow to the county’s pump stations and treatment center. Treating rain water is a needless expense, and too much flow could force the county to expand its facilities or lead to sewage spills.

A pipe on Buffalo Road leaked multiple times earlier this year, and the state awarded the county a separate $338,900 no-interest emergency loan to replace about 5,000 linear feet of sewer line in the area. Coats said the spills were because of corroded pipes.

All of the improvements target sewer lines that are between 30 and 50 years old, Coats said.

“These are our oldest lines in the system, and we feel like our priority is there,” she said.

Each year, local governments apply for money from North Carolina’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund. The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources sorts applications based on need and awards the 20-year, no-interest loans.

Since 2010, when the state began using its current system for weighting applications, local governments have submitted an average of 36 requests during each of the two yearly funding rounds.

In the current funding cycle, a pool of $50 million is available, said Susan Massengale, a spokeswoman for the state’s Division of Water Resources.

The state has given Johnston County preliminary approval for the $1.2 million loan application filed in March.