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Springdale utility starts permanent fix for Bethel Heights

by Laurinda Joenks | March 18, 2021 at 7:22 a.m.
An eight inch continual polyethylene pipe from the former failing Bethel Heights water treatment plant to a connection with a Springdale sewer line is visible Tuesday, September 29, 2020, as it comes out of the ground after passing under a road. Check out and for a photo gallery.(NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)

SPRINGDALE -- The Springdale Water and Sewer Commission took one more step Wednesday to provide permanent sewer service to the residents of the former town of Bethel Heights.

The commission approved a $20,000 contract with McClelland Consulting Engineers in Fayetteville to survey the area for utility easements. The commission expects to spend $1.5 million to build infrastructure serving the nearly 3,000 residents and to clean up the former town's two waste water treatment plants.

Staff engineers of the Springdale Water Utilities have designed a system to move waste water from the Bethel Heights' area to the Springdale Waste Water Treatment Plant on Pump Station Road, Heath Ward reported. Ward is the executive director of the utilities.

He said the utility will need an easement when the pipeline crosses private properties, and those property owners might have construction sites in their yards for a short while.

"Other than that, the pipe will go underground, and the effect will be minimal for most of the new Springdale residents," Ward said. "But, it brings closure to a problem."

Bethel Heights was annexed into Springdale in August after residents petitioned for an election calling for the annexation. The smaller town's failing waste water treatment system was at the heart of the effort.

Bethel Heights and Springdale voters approved the annexation by 64%.

The Springdale Utilities immediately spent $120,000 to reroute the sewage with pipelines and closed the treatment plants. Parts of the pipeline run above ground and are temporary, Ward said.

The permanent line for which the utilities is surveying should be ready early next year, said Rick Pulvirenti, chief engineer and operating officer of the utilities.

Officials will plan a public information session with residents as the project moves forward, Ward said.

"I do go in my yard now barefoot because I'm not concerned I'm getting in raw sewage," said Tina Bowen, whose yard abuts the closed treatment plant on Lincoln Avenue.

She said her family mowed their yard last week, including places that previously filled with sewage.

"And even with all this rain, we haven't had any flooding," she said Wednesday afternoon as thunder rolled and hail fell. "It's been nice."

The Arkansas Department of Health has approved the design to move the waste water, but the project still needs the approval of the Arkansas Division of Environmental Quality, Ward said.

The Springdale utilities also might qualify for a grant and a low-interest loan, both from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, to pay for the project, he added.

Ward told the commissioners the infrastructure was part of the utilities' long-term plan before the annexation. The 12- to 15-foot sewer line from the Bethel Heights' plants also marks the initial construction of a main sewer line that will serve customers south to the intersection of Arkansas 264 and South Old Wire Road.

Ward said the utility still follows a moratorium against new water service in Bethel Heights. Environmental Quality requested it in June 2019 after the town failed to operate correctly its waste water treatment system.

Waste water often pooled on the surface of the ground and water from the system didn't meet purity standards required in the state permit, state reports said.

Ward said the moratorium continues because of capacity limitations. The temporary line doesn't have the capacity to serve a 100-lot subdivision, Ward said as an example.

Developers who want to provide sewer service will have to build their own pipelines to the new sewer line and provide pumping strength to get the sewage to the treatment plant, he said. The Springdale utility was serving Bethel Heights with water service before the annexation.

And all projects must comply with Springdale's construction standards, he added.

Ward noted the utilities worked with two developers and honored large-scale plans approved by the Bethel Heights City Council before the annexation. The department will work with individual users with smaller needs on a case-by-case basis until the new infrastructure is operating, he said.


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