Aging pipes are a concern for Rockdale County BOC

CONYERS -- Weaving below streets and buildings, pipelines aren't on most people's minds, unless there is a leak. However, some members of the Rockdale County government say pipelines should be brought to the forefront of the county's immediate needs.

During discussions of a requisition by Rockdale Stormwater for $100,000 for emergency repair of pipes at the Nov. 8 Board of Commissioners meeting, Commissioner Oz Nesbitt stated there is a need in Rockdale County for new pipelines.

"I think what we haven't talked about in quite some time -- and I'm calling it out, I'm putting it out there -- is there our age-old pipes in Rockdale County, in Rockdale Water Resources as well as stormwater division, that have not been repaired or replaced," Nesbitt said. "At some point, we're going to have to address the expenses."

Dwight Wicks, department head of RWR, said there has been little capital funding provided for line repair and replacement since 2005.

In 2010, RWR spent about $1.9 million on water pipes and about $750,000 on sewer pipes, according to RWR's 2010 annual report.

RWR will receive $12 million through the current SPLOST program for county capital improvement projects. The SPLOST funds will go toward construction of a 10 million gallon emergency water storage tank at the county's water treatment plant. About $6.5 million is earmarked for water pipe replacement over the next five years.

"However, these funds have been tied to replacing lines first that are associated with road repair and replacement and with the looping of dead-end water lines," Wicks said. "Our need for line replacement exceeds the funding currently available."

Wicks said the water lines are separate from sewer lines, which are also part of the purview of RWR.

"The other major problem with the sewer lines is that associated with overflows -- when the volume within the line during rainfall events becomes excessive due to rainwater entering the lines. We refer to this as inflow and infiltration from rain events or I/I," Wicks said.

The state Environment Protection Division issues citations and fines to RWR each time an overflow occurs, he said.

In response, RWR created an I/I Rehabilitation program, which would budget $1 million a year for repair and replacement of manholes and sewer lines. Wicks said the program, however, is underfunded.

"We spent less than $110,000 on the entire I/I program due to the lack of capital funding," he said.

Wicks said he felt the issue needed to be addressed before it became too costly for the county. He said RWR is currently working on a master plan that contains plans for both rehabilitation of pipelines and funding for the rehabilitations.

Nesbitt also said he felt the issue required more immediate attention.

"We have a system in our community that needs to be addressed and it's going to cost money in order to repair," he said. "Some decisions are going to have to be made."