Pilot Mountain facing millions in sewer, water needs

By Bill Colvard - bcolvard@mtairynews.com

“That’s a lot of duct tape,” was Pilot Mountain commissioner Evan Cockerham’s response to photographs of Pilot Mountain’s wastewater treatment facility.

McGill Associates

PILOT MOUNTAIN — Two engineers from McGill Associates made the second of two presentations to the Pilot Mountain Board of Commissioners last week on the town’s future sewage needs.

This special meeting follows one in September on water needs that will help the town board to determine if Pilot would be better served upgrading its existing wastewater treatment plant or interconnecting with a neighboring municipality.

The studies were funded by two $50,000 grants received from the N.C. Division of Water Infrastructure, one for water

and one for sewer.

Like many towns and cities in the region, Pilot Mountain was left with water and wastewater systems that far outstripped

the town’s needs when large manufacturing businesses shut down local operations, according to Town Manager Michael Boaz.

“Armtex used a million gallons a day,” said Boaz. “Pilot Mountain had to service that customer.” But now, after the loss of Armtex and several hosiery mills, the town only uses about 128,000 gallons a day, yet is maintaining a system designed to accommodate 2-2.5 million gallons a day.

“We know we are using a small fraction of what we used before,” said Boaz. “It is unlikely we will ever have water users like that again. Those kind of industries aren’t out there anymore. We’ll get new businesses, but they won’t need that kind of water.”

Faced with an aging infrastructure and some deferred maintenance issues from darker days when the town was on a less solid financial footing, Boaz said the town had to start thinking about rehabilitating the existing plant or going in another direction, such as partnering with a neighboring town and interconnecting with their system.

Results from the water study presented in September showed that the cost of rehabilitating the existing system and bringing water from Mount Airy were virtually the same. Since the costs were the same, the commissioners were able to apply for a grant without deciding which plan to undertake. That decision will be made in January.

Monday evening’s meeting evaluated three possibilities for future sewage treatment; upgrading and continuing wastewater treatment operations at Pilot Mountain’s existing facility, sewer service through Mount Airy, and sewer through King.

Doug Chapman, an engineer for McGill Associates, quickly eliminated King as a possibility. “We just did not feel it was a good idea.”

King has sent their wastewater to Winston-Salem/Forsyth County for a very long time, said Boaz, a King resident.

King had looked at partnering with Pilot Mountain, but ultimately chose to build their own plant. But no one knows how long that will take, and in the meantime, the cost of sending waste to King to send on to Winston-Salem would be prohibitive, according to Boaz, on the evidence of his residential sewer bill.

Wastewater plant upgrade

Chapman said the study showed Pilot Mountain’s wastewater flows average 128,000 – 129,000 gallons a day. The system in place was designed to handle much more.

Kent Scott, operator in charge of the Pilot Mountain facility, estimated that was only 8-10 percent of the total capacity.

“You don’t need all the chambers that were once needed,” said Mike Patton, another McGill engineer. He added, “The effluent coming out is good effluent.” He also made the point several times that the staff is doing a good job.

The McGill study estimated the cost to upgrade the system would be $2.25 million.

Sewer interconnection with Mount Airy

Patton prefaced his summary on sewer interconnection with Mount Airy by saying, “Pilot Mountain is downhill from Mount Airy. While that is good for water, it is bad for sewage.”

Patton stated that Mount Airy’s pump station near the airport has the capacity to handle Pilot Mountain’s wastewater in addition to what it is handling already. “We would propose connecting there,” he said. The plan would require three additional pump stations, one at the existing treatment plant, and two more along old US Hwy. 52.

The bulk of the route, 30,000 linear feet, would be force-main pumped lines which can not be tapped into. Potential additional sewer customers would need to tap in at one of the pump stations, thereby reducing the potential for additional revenue. Only 10,000 linear feet of the connecting lines would be gravity sewer.

The cost for Mount Airy interconnection was estimated at $6.9 million.


Analysis of funding made several assumptions, according to the McGill report. It assumes sewer revenues only, treatment budget would be deleted under the Mount Airy option, there would be no capital improvements outside of the wastewater disposal project, it assumes water administration and water and sewer line maintenance budgets are spit equally between water and sewer, increases in revenue will be simply monthly revenue, not by rate class, and assumes an expense increase of 3 percent annually and customer usage increase of 1 percent annually.

The wastewater plant improvement plan could be funded with a 0-percent, 20-year loan from NC Division of Water Infrastructure. The $2,250,000 loan would cost $112,500 annually for 20 years.

The Mount Airy treatment option could be financed with a USDA rural development loan at 3.25 percent interest for 40 years. The $6,900,000 would be repaid at $310,500 annually for 40 years.

Q and A

At the end of the presentation, commissioners were given a chance to ask questions.

In response to general dismay at the costs, the engineer Chapman admitted, “That’s an awful big chunk to chew on. It’s like a bad piece of meat. The more you chew on it, the bigger it gets.”

Securing the funding and completing construction would be a 2 1/2-year process, with the clock starting from the time a decision is made on which project to pursue.

A meeting is to be held in January for that purpose. The fate of the water system is scheduled to be decided at the same meeting.

“That’s a lot of duct tape,” was Pilot Mountain commissioner Evan Cockerham’s response to photographs of Pilot Mountain’s wastewater treatment facility.
https://www.pilotmountainnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/web1_Pilot-sewer.jpg“That’s a lot of duct tape,” was Pilot Mountain commissioner Evan Cockerham’s response to photographs of Pilot Mountain’s wastewater treatment facility. McGill Associates

By Bill Colvard


Reach Bill at 415-4699.

Reach Bill at 415-4699.

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