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Ball Rolling For New Sewer Plant On Catawba River

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities Department has officially begun the review process for a new wastewater treatment plant on the Catawba River. It would be the first sewer plant the county has built in several decades. Sewage flushed from the northwestern edge of Mecklenburg County - up by the Northlake Mall - travels a long way to be treated: 27.2 miles down to Pineville. That's more than a marathon. "It's pumped twice to get there,"says CMUD chief engineer Barry Shearin. Those massive pipes and pumps require a lot of maintenance, so CMUD would like to split the distance with a new wastewater treatment plant on the Catawba River. It would sit near the Whitewater Center and likely take sewage from Mount Holly and Belmont, as well as western Mecklenburg County. "When we did a master plan four or five years ago, it would have implied that we needed this facility by 2014 or before," says Shearin. But then came the recession. "With the slowing of growth, that date has continued to move out," says Shearin. CMUD got the ball rolling for the new plant last week by submitting a formal environmental impact statement to the North Carolina Division of Water Quality. Public comment on the project will begin soon, but Shearin says it will be at least 2015 before construction starts. One catch is the already polluted nature of Lake Wylie. Since the new treatment plant would be upstream of the lake, Shearin says it will have to meet some of the strictest standards in the state in order to gain approval from environmental regulators.