Sewer extension project on U.S. 63 south under way

Ken Johnson, manager of Pine Bluff Wastewater Utility, said that the three-phase sewer project along U. S. 63 to Ridgway Road is scheduled for completion in early 2013.

Johnson provided a progress report on the extension of sewer service Thursday to the West Pine Bluff Rotary Club at the Pine Bluff Country Club.

“Phase one of the project consisted of the installation of an interceptor line under Interstate 530 which had a cost of $145,000 and was done by Building & Utility Contractors of Redfield,” Johnson said. “Phase two involves the installation of a pump station on the west side of Highway 63 adjacent to Interstate 530. The project has been delayed somewhat due to high groundwater levels but it should be completed by January 2013. The cost for phase two is $370,000 and the work is being done by H. Excavating, Inc. of Star City.”

Johnson said that instead of installing one large pump, the utility will install two smaller pumps in order to be able to ramp up capacity as the projected need increases.

“Phase three will be the installation of a gravity sewer by Craig Brumbley Construction of Hot Springs for $252,000,” Johnson said. “A notice to proceed was signed last week.”

Johnson said that the project will allow for commercial development along U.S. 63 from I-530 down to Ridgway Road.

Johnson also provided an overview of the work done by the PBWU.

“Wastewater is kind of out of sight out of mind,” Johnson said. “You don’t think about us until you need us.”

Johnson said that residents should call his agency first when they encounter a plumbing problem.

“When you have a sewer problem it may be because of us so before you call a plumber let us take a look,” Johnson said. “We don’t provide reimbursements for plumber visits that could have been handled by us.”

Johnson said that the utility employs 50 people and maintains 16,000 customer accounts.

“We have 450 miles of pipeline and 7,571 active manholes,” Johnson said. “We also have the largest municipal wastewater stabilization lagoons in the United States. The lagoons cover 450 acres near the Arkansas River and use natural processes to clean the wastewater which is then released into the Arkansas River.”

Johnson said that lab tests show that the water discharged into the river is actually cleaner than the river water itself.