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City dedicates water treatment plant

Don Burkey understands most people really don’t know what happens at the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
“Once they flush, they have no clue,” said Burkey, who’s the back-up supervisor at the plant on N.C. 150 West.
But Burkey, one of the plant’s nine employees, can walk even the most hesitant through the wastewater process, from the moment it’s pumped in till about 18 hours later when it flows back into the South Fork River.
If you took the amount of water that would fill an SUV and pumped it through the plant, it would be reduced down to the size of a softball — and it’d be more than 98 percent clean when it went back into the river.
Plant employees and city and county officials and staff members gathered Thursday afternoon to dedicate the plant, which just underwent a huge upgrade.
The $18 million project will make it possible for the plant to meet new and future federal environmental guidelines, City Manager Jeff Emory said.
The city began the process in 1995 when the City Council asked Pease Associates to develop a master plan for the region, said Don Garbrick with Pease.
In 1999, the company began working with state officials and city staff to develop design criteria.
The upgrade will make it possible for the plant to adapt to new environmental standards that will likely come in the next 20 years, Garbrick said.
It will also allow the city to expand its user base throughout the area since meeting the standards will allow for more waste.
“We re-did the entire facility from beginning to end,” Garbrick said. “It’s a magnificent facility.”
Emory and Steve Peeler, director of public works and utilities, praised the work of plant Superintendent Jamie Rhyne, who took on the job right when plans for the upgrade were beginning.
When he started the job “his hair was as black as a piece of coal,” joked Peeler about Rhyne, whose hair is now dusted with gray.
“No one realizes how much he’s doing.”by Alice Smith

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