Dalton Utilities seeks $80 million bond to improve water filtration

Dalton Utilities seeks $80 million bond to improve water filtration

October 7th, 2017 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 1/3/17. Tom Bundros, CEO of Dalton Utilities, stands inside of the company headquarters on Tuesday, January 3, 2016.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Dalton Utilities will get about $80 million to tighten its water straining and update other equipment at the Riverwater waste treatment plant.

Mayor Dennis Mock and the Dalton City Council voted to pass a bond ordinance during a special called meeting Friday morning, paving the way for the utility company to seek out the long-term loan next month. The ordinance was a legal requirement for the bond, explaining to the investors how the money will flow and assuring them they will get back their investment.

Dalton Utilities CEO Tom Bundros said the most important upgrade will be to the filtration system at the plant, located on Mitchell Bridge Road in Chatsworth. The building is about 60 years old.

When water enters the plant right now, Bundros said, it runs through sand, gravel and coal to squeeze out impurities.

"[The filter] basically mimics what mother nature does," Bundros said. "That technology is not woefully outdated. But the newer technology is to ensure even higher quality water."

Once workers install the new filtration system, the water will run through brushheads with tiny tendrils hanging down. He said the new system looks like rice vermicelli. The water is pressurized and pushed, until it is more pure than the current water.

Bundros pointed out there was nothing wrong with what customers get now, per se, it's just that technological advancements allow for the utility to offer cleaner water than ever before. Customers will not necessarily taste any difference, though.

"We're kind of future-proofing the water treatment facility," he said. "That level of filtration is not mandated. But you're looking forward. I mean, there's going to be continuing and increasing demands on water quality."

For example, a water system now can detect drops to the hundredths of a part per billion, something utility workers couldn't have seen five years ago. Bundros said you can see remnants of cosmetics, facial lotions and colognes that might have been dumped from a plant downstream — not that it's a problem here, he added.

The money bond will also allow workers to replace 50-year-old pumps, natural gas infrastructure and the communications "backbone" on their data collection system.

The revenue bond will last about 20 years. When it goes to market, Bundros expects an interest rate of about 3 percent.

Dalton Utilities is a separate entity from the city, and the council appoints a five- person board to govern it. The council also has to approve the paperwork for the bond, though no money will come from tax revenue.

"It's a huge, cumbersome document," Mock said of the bond ordinance Friday. "But we feel like we've reached a good agreement for both sides."

Bundros hopes workers can complete the upgrades in three to five years.

Contact Staff Writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.