Some Things Missing
The Request for Proposals for the $6 to $8 million expansion of the Rocky Branch sewage plant has one interesting and significant exclusion.
The RFP does not cover construction of the pipe and pump that will be needed to get the treated sewage water to Barber Creek or to the water distribution system required to carry the reuse-quality water to any customers the County may be able to line up for it.
The RFP stipulates that the project extends "only to the treatment facility property boundary." The RFP states that work beyond the 245-acre site off Rocky Branch road behind the new high school "will be addressed in a separate project."
The exclusion is interesting because the County originally planned to dump the water into an unnamed tributary at the edge of the County property, but the Georgia Environmental Protection Division has said it will not allow that, since the County sought and was granted permission to discharge into Barber Creek, not the unnamed tributary.
In addition, the County repeatedly has said discharge into Barber Creek will actually be less than the allowed 1.0 million gallons per day of treated sewage water because the County will sell the treated water to customers for irrigation. The County will have to build a separate distribution and metering system for the reuse water.
Chris Thomas, assistant director of the Oconee County Utility Department, told me in an e-mail message on September 6, 2006, that the Rocky Branch "discharge will be into the feeder creek," rather than Barber Creek itself. He copied his message to me to Utility Department head Gary Dodd. (Dodd will retire on August 6, and Thomas is set to replace him as director.)
At the December 12 hearing before the EPD, I argued that the draft permit was for the wrong stream, since it named Barber Creek and not the tributary.
The EPD in late March of 2007 informed me and others who questioned the County over its plans for the Rocky Branch plant that "The discharge is not to be occurring in the stream adjacent to the plant site, which is a tributary to Barber Creek."
On December 13–the day after the hearing--Curtis Boswell, from the Engineering & Technical Support Program at the EPD in Atlanta, sent an email message to Chris Thomas saying:
"We did a satellite view of the discharge location for the Rocky Branch facility. Looks like you guys are going to pipe approximately 1-mile to Barber Creek. I relayed this information to the Athens Banner this morning. Go ahead and submit the pump station and force main information with the plans and specifications for the wastewater facilities."
Gary Dodd e-mailed back to Boswell about an hour later, saying:
"This can gravity all the way and it is not a mile, what you sent ABH is ok with us, if they call we will tell them this is an option that we can use. Thanks for the heads up!!"
Boswell wrote back the following day (14th of December) saying:
"The application included a map showing a 1-mile radius essentially from the headworks. The proposed discharge location fell along the radius line. Am I missing something? This is the same location identified in the wasteload allocation. It did not look downhill all the way!"
The effort to convince the Athens Banner-Herald that the County had planned to pipe the water to Barber Creek all along was successful. The reporter never wrote about the issue and apparently did not know that the County was not even certain at that point whether it would have to pump the treated sewage to Barber Creek or whether it would flow by gravity.
One way or the other, the County has to get the water off the property. Unless it tries to use the unnamed tributary to do that, it will need to seek another bid for the pipe to Barber Creek as well as the distribution system for the reuse water.
That means the $6 to $8 million cost estimate is a low one.