Refurbishment works on the Altoona Water Authority’s Bellwood Dam and Water Treatment Plant have begun.
Mark Glenn, a consulting engineer at Gwin Dobson & Foreman, told an authoritative meeting this week that authorities officials had notified the start of the two projects earlier this month, at a combined cost of about $35.6 million.
“It has been a long time,” Board Chairman Bill Neugebauer said.
Talking about the dam project started a few years ago, the original timetable was set in 2014, calling for construction to start as early as 2017 and be completed two years later.
Authorities are renovating the dam in response to pressure from the state’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, which found the emergency spillway was severely deficient.
It is refurbishing the treatment plant below the dam as the facility is nearing the end of its useful life, and it makes sense to do this work when the plant is not operational anyway because the reservoir behind the dam will be empty.
According to previous information provided by Gwin Dobson and a DEP spokesperson, a number of factors have delayed the dam project, including the permit backlog caused by DEP’s turnover, the complex design of the dam project, and problems identified by DEP in its retrofit plans.
There has also been a recent delay in the completion of a new ozonation system at the Tipton water treatment plant, which needs to be completed before work at Bellwood begins, so Tipton production can make up for lost Bellwood water output.
The factory work at Bellwood will feature an innovative membrane filtration system that filters contaminants down to the sub-micron scale, replacing the existing sand filtration system.
The dam project will include a zigzag spillway designed to save horizontal space along the dam breast while still providing sufficient linear footage for overflow.
Glenn said factory contractors have already begun internal demolition.
Dam contractors have started “Clean and Dig” And the investigation works, according to Authority general manager Mark Perry.
In the meantime, authorities have begun lowering reservoir levels, which could take a month depending on how much rainfall the basin receives, Perry said.
When the drop is complete, contractors will create a bypass channel within the reservoir basin so water can flow through the emergency spillway rather than through the dam’s underdrain during construction, Perry said.
Authorities are still working to secure a disposal site for the silt collected at the bottom of the reservoir over the years.
The plan was to store it on the property of the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission near Blandburgh, but the commission is now asking authorities to take more silt samples than the original six, which were analyzed and found to be consistent with “Clean Fill Standard”, Perry said.
‘We’re dealing with a new group’ On the committee, Perry said.
The group is seeking additional assurance that there is “There are no hot spots and they don’t want to see anything on their property,” He said.
Authorities have arranged for a replacement site on a farm on a reclaimed open-pit mine near Beccaria to grow the vegetation that wild deer depend on if the extra samples end up ruining the game board’s deal, Perry said.
The owners of that land would welcome the silt to increase soil fertility, he said.
Getting it there would increase the cost for the authorities, he said, because it’s 10 miles away from the site in Brandburg.
Lobar Inc. of Dillsburg is the general contractor for the plant, while Bob Biter Electric Enterprises of Cresson is the electrical contractor and Pall Corp. is the filtration equipment supplier.
The total estimated cost of the plant is $11.12 million.
The Allusions Park contractor for Gibsonia is the dam contractor.
The total estimated cost of the dam is $24.5 million.
A low-interest loan from Pennvest financed the project.
“We are on our way,” Glenn said.
“It’s good to know that now we’re really moving,” Neugebauer said.
Mirror Staff writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.