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East Yancey Water and Sewer Project
The East Yancey Sewer Project will build a new sewer system and treatment plant in the area east of Burnsville out to Micaville and generally south of Little Crabtree Creek and Highway 19E. Phase I of the project will run from near Glen Raven Mills along Highway 19E to 80 South at the old Taylor Togs plant and up 80 South to Micaville Elementary School and the Hickory Springs plant. Construction on Phase I is expected to begin in 2010 when the final permit is issued by the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and remaining rights of way are secured. The permit is delayed at DENR as they consider permits for stimulus-funded projects.
The entire East Yancey Sewer project, designed by McGill Associates in accordance with state guidelines, allows for future growth of the system. Phase I construction provides for possible expansion to handle the gradual addition, over a twenty year period, of sewer lines from George's Fork Road, Lower Georges Fork Road, West Windom, Cane Branch Road, Bear Wallow Road, the Reserve, and other areas along the service route.
Why Is This Project Necessary?
The Sewer Project has been driven by the desire to keep and attract jobs in Yancey County, by the need to protect water quality in the service area, by the population growth we have experienced, and by the need to replace the aging septic system which serves Micaville School.
During the 1990s, the parent companies of both Taylor Togs and Hickory Springs considered expanding their operations in Yancey County. Both had available space, but found that soils near their plants did not allow for the necessary septic drain fields. The jobs went to other plants within these companies. Yancey County’s Economic Development Commission has stressed that development of this sewer system is critical to future commercial and industrial growth in Yancey County.
Water quality is an issue because about 70 percent of the soils in the project area are poorly suited or unsuited for septic drain fields, with the remaining 30 percent only marginally suited. Some of the area is susceptible to flooding. McGill Associates survey of households in the area indicated that many problems already exist with possible overflow of waste water into ground water, wells, and streams. It is expected that water quality will improve as failing and substandard septic systems are replaced by sewer connections.
Population growth in Yancey County was about 15 percent between 1990 and 2000. This rate of growth is expected to continue with corresponding increases in the number of homes and businesses constructed, in the East Yancey area. With rising density, it is becoming increasingly difficult and sometimes impossible to construct septic systems which meet acceptable standards.
How Is The Project Being Funded?
The project is funded by a $3,000,000 Unsewered Communities Grant to Yancey County from the NC Rural Economic Development Center, a $3,000,000 grant to the Town of Burnsville from the Clean Water Bond Program of the Division of Water Quality (DWQ) of the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and matching funds of $170,000 each from the County and Town.
Why Build a New System When Burnsville Already Has a Sewer System?
The Town of Burnsville began about 1991 to search for funding to extend their sewer system to East Yancey after Taylor Togs requested sewer service to expand their operations in Micaville. In 2002, after applying to numerous government agencies, the Town concluded that they could not find sufficient funding to expand their system. At that time, the County took the lead in the project and applied to the NC Rural Center for an “Unsewered Communities” grant. The town was not eligible for this grant since it had a sewer system, while the county did not.
On September 30, 2002, the County formed the East Yancey Water and Sewer District, as required in order to apply for the grant, with the Commissioners as the Board of the new District. The County submitted a request for a $3,000,000 grant from the NC Rural Center, which was granted in 2003. The projected completion date of 2005 for Phase I was postponed by delays in obtaining a few of the 52 easements needed to provide right-of-way for construction of the sewer lines through private property.
In 2008, the Town of Burnsville at long last was granted the $3,000,000 requested from the Division of Water Quality. In 2002, the funds initially available were all granted to other applicants. By 2008, surplus funds from some of these projects had been returned to the DWQ, which was then able to fund the East Yancey project. This will enable the project to meet the increased costs created by the project’s delay.
A contract between Yancey County and the Town of Burnsville, signed September 30, 2002, provided that when construction was completed, the Town of Burnsville would operate and maintain the sewer system on behalf of the County. including billing users, collecting user fees, and deducting the Town’s operating and maintenance costs. Any surplus would be passed along to the County to be held for future capital investments in the sewer system. The Town Council and County Commissioner held a joint meeting on July 23, 2009, to begin the process of reviewing and reconsidering this 2002 agreement.