POUND — Working at the state's direction, engineers for the town are refiguring how best to use millions in grant and loan dollars the town has to fix sewer system problems.

Rather than spend the original $3.4 million it was awarded in 2016 to repair and expand capacity of Pound’s sewer plant, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has asked the town to redirect efforts toward fixing the issue of water getting into and leaking out of its sewer lines.

DEQ asked for one particular big modification to the original approach — lifting up manholes now submerged in the Pound River, which they know are one substantial contributor to the inflow and infiltration problem, known as I&I.

Thompson and Litton engineer Eric Price briefed town council at its Aug. 20 meeting, noting that the mayor, clerk and two councilmen were among those who had been part of a recent meeting with DEQ on changing the scope of the project.

One important thing they learned at that meeting, Price said, was that, no matter what happens with the scope of the project, Pound will still get its grants.

If the project scope is reduced, you get the grant and the loan is less, he said. If work would wind up costing more, then Pound would be able to increase how much it is being loaned.

Price said DEQ basically told them to reconfigure the waste water treatment plant project, taking out things that weren't absolutely necessary and putting that savings toward fixing inflow and infiltration issues.

The modifications will require more engineering work, he advised, and an amendment request to the agreements it has with the town will be forthcoming. The firm has two different agreements with Pound, Price noted, one covering the plant project funded in 2016 and one for the Lower Bold Camp line work funded in 2018.

The details of exactly how that will shape up are still being worked out and are somewhat convoluted because the projects span two different funding cycles, he said, and because DEQ is looking to apply savings from the plant project to sewer line work. That alignment has implications at bid time, as DEQ advised the town would not want to look to plant contractors as those who also would do line work.

Their proposed changes shave about a million dollars off the plant project, dropping it to about $2.3 million. They also gain about $11,000 off the Lower Bold Camp sewer line work, which is coming in at about $700,000.

The new manhole project, however, is estimated at about $1.79 million and first must be designed. Exactly what else needs to happen hinges on what they find when they finally have access to the main line and, through camera work, are able to see the scope of the problems there.

Another additional expense is having flow monitoring done after the manholes are lifted out of the river, he said.

He said there's also engineering required in making revisions to the work on the plant.

Asked if all this means there's a roughly $700,000 increase in the town's cost, Price advised that, no, in the end, the total cost of the projects would wind up being about the same.

He provided a letter reporting the change in scope of the project but noted he asked for no action that night. Price also explained that, a year into the work, Thompson and Litton has not been paid anything and has not pressed for collection of invoices it has been sending. Its only request is for a $5,000 reimbursement on what it paid a contractor for work required to determine the presence of the protected Big Sandy crayfish.

Because of the finding of the Big Sandy crayfish, work on the project was placed on a time-of-year restriction, Price explained. Basically, no work can be done from July to October.

That's in the creek itself, town councilman Glenn Cantrell clarified. Price agreed. He said they'd been playing with some possible schedules but really needed the town's audit. Its completion is critical and will dictate when they get to loan closing, he said. The overdue audit has blocked closing on the loans.

Price said sewer work is about ready to move ahead once it gets formal approval from the town and DEQ. Everything here is of shorter duration than the audit, he said.