published Saturday, July 7th, 2012

Cleveland Utilities boosts pollution control

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Cleveland Utilities has stepped up its long-term commitment to ensure its wastewater system achieves high marks for environmental safety, officials say.

The utility recently submitted a report to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation detailing its water pollution control activities in 2011, and spring budget proposals indicated those efforts are redoubling.

"We feel real good about what we were able to accomplish last year, but we are now approaching the problem with a new technique," Cleveland Utilities CEO Tom Wheeler said. "It allows us to zero in on the worst problems and get better results."

The newest component of the utility's environmental strategy is Scope-10, a 10-year plan otherwise known as the "Strategic Commitment to Protect the Environment" that was unveiled last fall.

Scope-10 is a comprehensive plan intended to reduce the amount and severity of wastewater overflows into the sanitary sewer system. Unwanted inflow can take place where pipes and manholes have been damaged.

Wheeler said a key aspect of the project is that it is cost effective. Instead of repairing every single break and crack in the wastewater system, the approach is to target the worst leaks.

Last year utility personnel and contractors performed more than 100 site repairs and replaced nearly 61 manhole covers and nearly 3,000 feet of sewer line, according to the report submitted to TDEC. Wheeler said he was not sure if this year's numbers would surpass those figures in light of the targeted approach the utility is using.

The project launched in southern Bradley County, in an area bordered by Chattanooga Pike, Blackburn Road and Varnell Road.

The zone -- known as Basin 31-45 on Cleveland Utilities maps -- is responsible for nearly 23 percent of the stormwater infiltration into the wastewater system, according to a report presented by LittleJohn Engineering.

Manual inspections, closed-circuit cameras and nontoxic smoke tests were used to detect leaks throughout the fall and spring, according to updates by Craig Mullinax, vice president of the utility's water division.

Actual repair and replacement efforts in Basin 31-45 are expected to begin this year, Mullinax has said.

Cleveland Utilities originally committed $1.2 million to Scope-10 for each year of its life. However, the project's budget for 2012-13 increased to $2.3 million.

Utility board members said they believed the project deserved escalated funding and action.

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