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CHEROKEE — The town's sewer rehabilitation project that began last October is nearly complete.
The problematic system had been in place since the 1970s with no major enhancements through the decades, just minimal maintenance, town officials said.
For the past several years the town has dealt with leaking lines and infiltration issues.
"This is going to resolve a lot of issues," said project engineer Richard Edmonds with White, Lynn, Collins and Associates.
"They've completed two new pump stations and are working on the third; fixed a lot of leaks in the system; and relined much of the existing pipes. The project is about 90-percent complete and should be wrapped up by late September," he said.
Gulf Coast Underground of Mobile is doing the pipework while Johnson Contractors of Muscle Shoals is replacing pump stations.
Edmonds said the project addresses the worst areas in the town and will be a "huge improvement."
A major problem with the aged system, according to Edmonds, was that many of the tie-ins to the system weren't done properly, and that allowed groundwater into the system causing overflow.
"In the future, they'll have a set of rules and regulations for future tie-ins to be handled properly," he said.
At this point in the project, nearly 16,000 feet of 12-inch ductal iron, just more than 3 miles, has been put in. Another section of 10-inch pipe, 4,500 feet, is going in as well, Edmonds said.
Doug Greenhill, Cherokee's maintenance supervisor, said the project has gone smoothly. "It will definitely alleviate all these leaks we're constantly repairing."
He said workers have done a great deal of point repairs, specific spots where water is leaking or infiltration problems exist.
The efficiency of the new pumps will mean operational costs will be down.
"These pumps won't run as much and cut the power bill," Greenhill said. "It's going to make a big difference for the town."
The $2.1 million project has been long overdue, said town officials.
"We're glad to be operating under a more efficient system, one that's not getting all the infiltration," Cosby said.
The town was facing fines for its dilapidated sewer system and was placed under a consent order to correct the problems. The town has a $1.2 million loan on the project while the remainder is covered through USDA grant money.
In order to pay back the loan, the USDA set the sewer rates, which resulted in a rate increase for residents.
"We're hoping to hold steady (with rates) for many years," Cosby said.