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 RMPU Home > Water & Wastewater > Treatment Plant History

Treatment Plant History

The water system of Rocky Mount has been a municipally owned and operated system since its inception in 1899. At that time the pump station was located about one mile west of the city limits on what is now known as Country Club Drive. Water was taken from Stony Creek and pumped to the system through an 8" main (by comparison, the present system contains mains as large as 36"). A standpipe located on Thomas St. between Main and Church maintained the system pressure.

In 1908, a combined water and power plant was located at the Tar River and Thomas St. Water was taken from the river, treated and filtered, and pumped through a newly installed 14" main in Thomas Street to the standpipe and into the system. This original standpipe remained in service until 1936 when it was removed.

In 1927, a 20" main was laid along Western Ave. to Main St. This main was extended in 1935 to supply the newly erected 1,000,000 gallon tank at Marigold and George St. At the same time the water plant was erected across Sunset Avenue from the power plant at its present location. The original plant contained six filters and settling basins and had a rated capacity of 5,000,000 gallons per day. The details of the Public Works Administration project can be seen in an article preserved and mounted at the Sunset Plant. The Sunset Ave. water plant was expanded in 1941 by 50% when three additional filters and basins were added. It was expanded a second time again in 1955 to 12,000,000 gallons per day with the addition of six more filters and settling basins. Its present treatment capacity of 18,000,000 gallons per day was achieved in 1990 when the filters were rebuilt, other plant equipment was modernized and additional facilities were added to the rear of the plant.

In 1970 the city constructed a dam on the Tar River West of the city. The 1650 acre lake impounds a reservoir of 4.3 billion gallons. This reservoir supplies water for the treatment plant constructed at the same time as the dam. The cost of the dam, reservoir property, water plant and pipeline into the city was approximately $5,000,000. These two pieces of the City system went into operation in 1971.

Such a detailed history is not available for the Rocky Mount wastewater system, wastewater not being quite so glamorous a subject as potable water. Drawings are still on record from 1910, however, of a Rocky Mount Sewage Disinfection Plant. These drawings and measurements show daily flows in the Rocky Mount sewerage system of 200,000 gallons per day. The population of Rocky Mount at that time was about 8000. Per capita sewage flow in 1910 of 25 gallons per person per day would be compared to 230 gallons per person per day in 1989. A large part of the increase would be from industrial wastewater as population has increased 6.5 times and wastewater flows have increased 60 times.

The wastewater plant familiar to most is the Leggett Road treatment facility, constructed in 1941. Expansions to this plant were made in 1957 and again in 1965. It was decommissioned and abandoned in May, 1982 when the Regional Treatment Facility went online East of the City along Highway 97. This modern facility, constructed at a cost of nearly $30 million, had a treatment capacity of 14,000,000 gallons per day and served not only Rocky Mount but also Nash and Edgecombe Counties, Nashville, Sharpsburg, Whitakers, and Dortches with wastewater treatment capability. The plant was modified in 1989 and expanded in 1992 to its present treatment capacity of 21,000,000 gallons per day. The cost of each of these projects was in excess of $10 million, making the investment in wastewater treatment facilities in excess of $50,000,000.