Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Caterpillar Decided To Send Sewage to Athens-Clarke, Not Oconee County, For Treatment

Oconee Building New Line

Caterpillar has decided to send its sewage from its plant under construction near Bogart to Athens-Clarke County for treatment, rather than to Oconee County, as had been planned.

Oconee County Utility Department Director Chris Thomas told me on Monday that Caterpillar made the decision after looking at the limits that would be imposed on it in Oconee County, where the amount of metals that can be handled is quite low because of the size of the county’s treatment plants.

It would be “almost impossible” for Caterpillar to meet the limits, Thomas said, and the manufacturer was “very worried at taking the chance of being out of compliance.”

Caterpillar Plant 12/12/2012

EPD Official Expected Application

Josh Welte, in the Watershed Protection Branch of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, tipped me to the change in plans in an email late last week.

Welte had told me in early November that he was expecting an application from Caterpillar for a pretreatment permit as a first step toward discharging waste from the plant into the Oconee County sewage treatment system.

Last week Welte said he still had not received that application and expected that meant Caterpillar had decided to discharge to Athens-Clarke County instead.

Athens-Clarke County has an EPD-approved industrial pretreatment program, Welte said, so it, rather than the EPD, can handle permitting and compliance for Caterpillar.

Oconee To Handle Sewage In Interim

Oconee County has agreed to handle the "domestic" sewage, that is, nonindustrial effluent, for the first six months to a year, Thomas said.

If Caterpillar starts manufacturing and produces any sewage from that process during that period, Thomas said, it will do the required pretreatment and then haul that waste to another site--perhaps to Clarke County's facilities or elsewhere.

During this interim period, according to Thomas, the nonindustrial sewage will travel from the plant inside Oconee County along a line now under construction that follows McNutt Creek from the plant to an existing liftstation where Jimmy Daniell Road crosses that creek. From there, the waste will be pumped to the county’s Land Application System site on Rocky Branch Road.

Once Athens-Clarke County builds about 2,000 feet of new sewer line on its side of McNutt Creek, Oconee County will direct the waste to Athens-Clarke County, where it will be treated in one of its plants, Thomas explained.

ACC Has Authority For Permits

While Athens-Clarke County has the authority from the state to issue pretreatment permits on behalf of the state, Oconee does not have this authority. If Oconee had handled the waste, the state would have had to issue the pretreatment permit.

The process of issuing a permit is quite similar regardless of who issues it, Thomas said, since both the state and Athens-Clarke County must follow federal standards. There is a formula for each type of contaminant, he said.

Athens-Clarke County simply has more capacity than Oconee, making it easier for it to handle the effluent, according to Thomas. The effluent will be pretreated on the Caterpillar site before discharge, following the requirements of the permit, he added.

Caterpillar will be discharging about 80,000 gallons per day of domestic and processed water combined, according to Thomas.

The metals that Thomas and Caterpillar were most concerned about were first zinc and then copper.

Because of an intergovernmental agreement between Oconee County and Athens-Clarke County, all fees collected by either government will be shared equally, so it doesn’t matter which county treats the effluent from the plant.

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