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Berkeley sewer project costs could top $100 million

February 21, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A three-phase sewer project for southeastern Berkeley County could cost more than $100 million, well above the original estimate of $70 million, the head of the agency leading the project said.

Rapid development, not cost overruns, is responsible because it has increased the scope of the project, said Walt Sebert, general manager of the Berkeley County Public Service Sewer District.

"Development keeps changing as we go along," he said. "We're shooting at a moving target."

Berkeley County Commissioner John E. Wright said the area is already largely served by public water and is certain to attract builders with sewer service.

"When the sewer goes in, people will buy land, and they will develop it," he said. "We will have a heavy concentration of all kinds of things. ... As night follows day, you'll find that building follows water and sewer."

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Five years ago, the existing sewer district served between 1,900 and 2,000 customers, Sebert said. That number is now 6,000. "In the next three years, it will double in size," he said.

Money for the project, necessitated partly by failing septic systems, comes from a mix of loans and federal grants, Wright said.

Work has begun on the first phase: The construction of two new treatment plants and the installation of about 80 miles of pipes. The initial phase will cost about $33 million and should be finished next year, Sebert said.

An Inwood, W.Va., treatment plant will be built at Nadenbousch and Sulphur Springs roads, near the Jefferson County line, according to Sebert. Within three years, it will have the capacity to treat about 2.2 million gallons per day, he said.

The second plant will be on Eagle School Road, replacing the 13-year-old Opequon/Hedgesville plant, Sebert said. The capacity there will be doubled, to 1.6 million gallons.

"It's (now) at capacity or near capacity," Sebert said.

The sewer district awarded nine contracts in November for construction of the plants and lines.

In addition, Chester Engineers of Gaithersburg, Md., was hired to oversee the design and construction of the Opequon plant. Pentree Inc. of Princeton, W.Va., another engineering firm, was hired to oversee work on the Inwood plant.

"Excavation is complete," Sebert said. "They're pouring the concrete foundations. ... The plant work has been going on for about a month."

The second phase will cost between $35 million and $50 million, Sebert said.

"It will be mostly pipe work," he said.

Sebert said the lines will run on the eastern side of Interstate 81 to Jefferson County, south to the Virginia border, wrap around the interstate and continue back up to a new exit 14.

That work probably will begin in 2001 and take about a year, he said.

The third phase will cover the portions of the county not included in the first two phases, much of it between the interstate and North Mountain, Sebert said. Its cost is estimated at $30 million.

That phase likely will begin in early 2002.

The sewer district is simultaneously working on plans for a separate $30 million project in the eastern end of the county. Sebert said it will serve the northeast quadrant, from W.Va. 45 to the Maryland border.

"We would like to go to bid by next year," he said.

New technology will be used at the Opequon plant. Sebert said two "sequencing batch reactors," or basins, will take turns mixing and aerating sewage.

The present plant has a 400-by-150-foot oxidation ditch, in which surface aerators beat the water to treat it. Oxygen levels are monitored by portable meters, he said.

"Now, (the meters) will be mounted," Sebert said. "They'll be easier to control and more efficient. You'll get a better effluent."

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