ELGIN - Estimates to improve Elgin's overburdened, seeping sewage lagoons and upgrade irrigation efforts continue to exceed city officials initial cost expectations.

A lengthy discussion was held at the Public Works Authority meet- ing on Tuesday, Feb. 11, concerning the Final Lagoon Repair Technical Memorandum. Although the Authority obtained a $2.4 million loan from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2109, to expand the city's current wastewater storage capacity and increase irrigation function, the city continues to hit snags when it comes to repair and construction cost estimates. Engineering reports revealed several points of concern at the city's sewage lagoons on the southeast corner. While the majority of sewage seepage issues occur during heavy rain, report findings indicate the way the current lagoons were constructed plays a large role in the problem. According to reports provided to the city, the water level in the lagoons should be about three feet from the top of the dike with a riprap surrounding for erosion protection and a clay liner to prevent leakage.


Officials say Elgin's sewer lagoons are being pushed past optimal capacity due to a shortage on lagoon space and limited irrigation opportunities. Findings show that currently there's only about a foot of clearance from the top of the water level to the dike, potentially allowing water to slip behind the dike during periods of heavy rain, causing erosion.


City officials were briefed at the Tuesday meeting about the two phases of construction that could potentially solve the concern. In phase one, six inches of gravel would be removed from the road and trenches at the sewage lagoon site. A clay liner would then be placed on the roadway and inside the trenches. Gravel would be replaced on top of the liner and it would be sealed with an oil and chip surface, prevent- ing any sewage from seeping away from the lagoons. The cost to cover construction on phase one is estimated at over $62,000. If phase one fails, findings show that the lagoons would need to be drained, relined with a new clay liner, if necessary, and installed with riprap. If both phases are required, estimates say it will come at a cost of over $223,000.


A motion was made to approve continuing forward with the phase one approach. The estimate of engineering fees and construction costs involved with the installation of automated irrigation valves, including a telemetry system tied into the irrigation lines, kicked off another extensive discussion. At a cost of about $368,000, the scope of the project covers the city's east irrigation field and involves the engineering fees, installation of controls, automated valves, lines and the electrical needed to allow for remote monitoring and operation.


Council members explained that the current operating system requires employees to manually switch irrigation valves every hour and a half in order to prevent over saturation of the land. With automatic valves and an updated telemetry system in place, employees would be free to work on other tasks and could even operate the irrigation fields remotely on the weekends.


As it is now, authority employees usually end their workday around 3 p.m. Monday-Friday. Council members voiced concerns about how many hours are lost in a day and on the weekends that could be spent irrigating, easing the stress on the sewage storage lagoons. While the council said they find the automated option desirable, too many questions remained about if it was efficient enough to be worth the cost. Mayor Thoma made a motion to table the subject for another time. He recommended that all options, including possibly hiring another employee to work different days or shifts, be considered before the decision is made.


The City of Elgin has been under a consent order from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality for over 10 years due to the sewage seepage issues. With improvement plans in the works, the city anticipates being back in compliance with ODEQ requirements soon.


After review, council members agreed to accept a Sewer Line Easement Agreement from Arvest Bank. The 15-foot easement on the north side of US Highway 277 and on the west side of Arvest will reportedly be used for a future sanitary sewer line for the proposed Braum's Ice Cream and Dairy Store. Construction has yet to begin, but plans show the Braum's building site will be located north of US Highway 277 in Elgin, near I-44.