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Milton utility employees in spruce up campaign

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By Dave Taylor

A tour of the Milton Water and Sewer Company’s various properties on Friday revealed the fruit of many months of labor on the part of city employees effecting improvements in both equipment and appearance.

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“We’re trying to get it back up to its original state,” Mark Bates, Milton Water and Sewer Field Coordinator, said. “The sewer system is approximately 30 years old. You can imagine 30 years of use, normal wear and tear. It didn’t get that way overnight.

Bates was certified in wastewater treatment in 1992. Prior to taking the position at Milton 25 months ago he managed the Ghent wastewater facility in a part-time capacity from 1997 to 2010 while also working at Arkema.

“Basically all we did is we took what we had and painted it and repaired what needed repair,” Bates said. “We will continue to improve. It’s a continuous process. With the limited manpower we have you just try to work those projects in as you go while you keep the day-to-day operations going. Anytime you’re dealing with mechanical stuff it’s going to require maintenance eventually.”

A liability issue for a number of years involved the public’s accessibility to the treatment plant facility, the well fields and other company properties. New fencing around those properties limits access to the sites.

“There are some issues with the water department as far as protecting our assets with fencing and making sure we’ve limited the access of who can come and go,” Bates said.

New fencing was made possible by a grant secured with State Rep. Rick Rand’s assistance from the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority, Bates said.

Bates, Milton Mayor Denny Jackson and city employees Ricky McQueary and Wayne Law pointed out a number of improvements at the treatment plant. Longtime city employee Mark Munier was enjoying a much-needed day off.

Law has been employed with the Milton Water and Sewer Company for 13 years. McQueary began employment with the company in 1997. Munier has worked for the city for the past 20 years.

“Our dry beds had trees and weeds growing in them and now you see them,” Bates said. “The first appearance is what everybody sees. The tank was kind of dull and black-looking. We painted that. The building, we put a coat of paint on it. We poured some concrete to keep it a little easier to keep clean. We’ve done some safety things.”

The facility’s lab is approximately 30 years old, officials said. The staff demolished it and put in all new cabinetry, countertops, lab equipment and a new tile floor.

“We’ve tried to modernize the place a little bit,” Bates said. “We made improvements to the chlorine room.”

He estimated an expenditure of about $15,000 for materials to complete the improvements to the lab.

Bates hopes the water company’s deteriorating well towers, located near the bridge, can be dismantled with the assistance of Milton-Madison Bridge contractor Walsh Construction Company once the new bridge project is completed. Walsh is leasing land around the well towers as a staging area for receiving and preparing sections of steel for the bridge trusses.

“It’s pretty expensive to do that. It’s not as simple as saying ‘let’s just take them down.’ There are regulations you have to follow. You have to have certified well people to de-commission it. It has to be closed out in the proper way. Certainly that’s one of our goals is to try to get that done.”

Bates said he plans to seek Walsh Construction’s assistance because they already have cranes and other equipment beneficial to dismantle the old structures and equipment within them. Bates said he believes the old well towers were erected sometime during the 1950s.

The city’s current well fields, located on Burkhardt Bottom, went into use in 2001. The city’s water is supplied to these wells from an underground aquifer. The city’s water supply is pumped from the wells to a booster station, or ground storage tank, on Fishers Ridge Road, which has a capacity of 300,000 gallons, Bates said. Water is held in reserve there until it is required to re-supply the water tower, located adjacent to the Milton Municipal Building.

Water company employees have been systematically upgrading the system’s lift stations, replacing electric panels, pedestals pumps and other equipment as necessary to make them more reliable. The current industry standard is that all new lift stations are equipped with stainless steel piping, Bates said. He estimated the lift station upgrades have required an investment of about $80,000 from the general operating fund.

“We set aside so much every year in the budget for major repairs,” Bates said. “The real savings has come from doing it in house and not having to hire it out. The sulfuric acid eats stuff up,” Bates said while pointing to a line of corroded pumps and other equipment. “That’s what happens in the lift stations. Over a period of years it just wears it all out and you’ve got to go in there and replace it.”

Jackson praised the efforts of the water and sewer staff.

“They certainly deserve for the community to know about all the hard work they’ve done,” he said.

“Mayor Jackson and the commissioners have been fully supportive of everything that we’ve needed to do and wanted to do,” Bates said. “They’re behind it 100 percent and that means a lot.”