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MSD director delivers update on MSD plans, goals, major projects
Thursday, 10 November 2022 21:46

From Staff Reports

The master plan and ambitious expansion plans for major projects involving the Metropolitan Sewerage District were presented by MSD Director Tom Hartye to the Asheville-based Council of Independent Business Owners on Nov. 4 at UNC Asheville Sherill Center.

The other presentation at the meeting was an election services report by Corrine Duncan, director of Buncombe County Election Services. (A separate story on Duncan’s report appears elsewhere in this edition.)

About 50 people present that was moderated by Stephen Foster, a member of CIBO’s board of directors.

Just prior to Hartye’s report, Foster called on Jerry VeHaun, chairman of the MSD board, who introduced Hartye, noting that “Tom’s going to talk with you about master plan and expansion” and other details. “He’s been with MSD for 24 years.”

(MSD is a nonprofit, public utility that owns and operates wastewater treatment facilities in the area.)

Hartye began by noting, “I'm giving a little update... In 1962, MSD was created by state statute as a special district. A lot of water and sewer facilties across the nation are municipally run. The MSD is a special district, so we’re a little bit different animal.

“In 1967, we built a regional treatment plant. In 1984, we rehabbed a hydroelectric facility (producing 2,880 kilowatts).

In 1991, in a consolidation move, “we took over smaller lines” of a city and four towns, including Asheville, Biltmore Forest, the Town of Biltmore, Montreat and Weavervlle, serving more than 170,000 people.

At present, MSD serves about 201,000 people via 57,000 customer accounts, he said.

Hartye also noted that MSD owns and maintains, among many major assets, a 40-MGD treatment plant (currently at 20 MGD), and a hydroelectric facility.

As a publicly owned regional utility, the mission is “to eliminate direct discharge.”

He added, “We are completing a $17 million high-rate primary treatment process, which will greatly increase our treatment abilities.

“Over the next 10 years, we’re going to be spending $389 million for growth and future regulations. 

“One of the projects — which should start sometime next year in construction — is our largest pump station called the Carrier Bridge Pump Station Replacement. (near the Amboy Road bridge in West Asheville). We bought the property off Duke Power. That project’s going to be some $50 million. So we’re going to be spending a lot of money in the heart of town. So there’s going to be a lot of work in that area in the next few years.”

Rhetorically, Hartye asked, “What is MSD’s approach? What are the policies for expansion?”

Answering his own questions, he said, “MSD is NOT a land planning or zoning decision-making body.

“So our sewer expansions basically are developer-driven.”

Hartye then spoke about MSD’s Collection System Master Plan

“We based it on all member agency land use plans and zoning/plans for orderly growth of the system/ replacement of existing sewers, sized for future growth.”

After a brief paused, he said, “What determines the location (of sewer lines) is… gravity.”

Further, Hartye said, “MSD does not have special assessment authority like cities and counties do. So existing customers don't fund (with rate increases) new speculative lines. These costs should be largely borne by those who will benefit. So we have to work with developers because we don’t have that authority.

“As for MSD financial partnerships, one of the main partnerships we have is additional capacity reimbursements for master plan lines, revenue sharing of future user charges and economic development, including the following:

• Failing septic tank emergencies

• New affordable housing projects

• Affordable housing rebates

• Developer-to-developer reimbursement

Two recent master plans, one of which is the Reems Creek Master Plan Interceptor Extension, each are valued at more than $600,000, he said.

“The other one was West French Broad Master Plan, with a value of about $1.5 million by Biltmore Farms.

“Both of these projects are up and running in ‘unsewered’ areas.”

Hartye then spoke of what he called “unsewered areas of interest…. identfied as areas that will have development on them.”

He then asked, rhetoricaly, “Why is sewer more expensive than water?”

He said the answer is that “gravity sewers that serve basins and sub-basins run ‘on-grade’ along stream features.”

During a question-and-answer session that followed, CIBO member Mac Swicegood noted that, “in the Southeast corner, when you look at your slide, where is Mud Creek? That seems to me to be the most active area” for the future for MSD.

“Henderson County has talked about that,” Hartye replied. “Most of it is going back to the Hendersonville plant. The remainder will go back to us. Our part is the in the Cane Creek watershed. So it wouldn’t be mainly in our part. It’s flat, so it’s going to happen.”

Responding to another question, Hartye noted that, at the MSD, “We burn our sludge. It’s not an environmental concern because it’s coming out.”



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