At the Oconee County Board of Commissioners work session on Jan. 14, county Utility Department Director Wayne Haynie said he was prepared to move forward with purchase of a refurbished sewerage treatment plant to expand the treatment capacity of the existing Calls Creek facility to 1 million gallons per day.
Last night at the Board of Commissioners meeting, Haynie changed course and proposed that the county break its contract to purchase the used plant and instead build a new facility on the Calls Creek property.
The move would save the county money, Haynie said, and increase the plant’s capacity at a time when there is increasing pressure to accommodate the needs of residential, commercial and industrial customers.
Haynie estimated that the proposal he favored on Jan. 14 would last the county only from 5 to 15 years and that the new proposal would serve the county’s needs for 15 to 20 years.
Long range, Haynie said, the county could expand the sewage treatment plant on the property it owns at the Calls Creek site to treat up to 3 million gallons per day of sewage.
The commissioners agreed to review Haynie’s proposal and discuss it at its meeting next Tuesday.
Change In Technology
Once the new plant is operational in a 12 to 18 months, according to Haynie’s new plans, the county would decommission its existing membrane filtration plant and move entirely to a plant relying in the more traditional biological treatment process.
This represents a big change in approach to sewage treatment in the county, which in the past has frequently touted its reliance on membrane filtration as a means of producing “near drinking level quality water.”
Haynie told the Board last night that membranes are “a little ornery” and expensive to operate. The clip below expands on Haynie’s view of the limitations of membranes.
In addition, Haynie said later in the meeting, Erin Carlton, whom the county hired from Athens-Clarke County to run the county’s sewage treat facilities following a series of problems going back to at least 2013, is familiar with and a proponent of biological treatment of sewage.
Change In Location
Haynie’s proposal also represents a change in plans for the location of future treatment facilities for the county.
When former Utility Department Director Chris Thomas proposed early last year that the county purchase a refurbished sewage treatment plant, he said one advantage was that the self-contained plant could be relocated to the Middle Oconee River in the future.
The long-term plans for the county have been to build a new treatment plant on the Middle Oconee because of the ability of the county to get permits to discharge larger amounts of treated sewer water to that river than to Calls Creek.
Calls Creek can only handle 1.5 million gallons per day of discharge, according to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, which regulates waste water treatment plants in the state.
In the plan spelled out last night, Haynie proposed building a permanent plant on the existing site to get to the 1.5 million gallons per day and also building a gravity-fed sewer line, probably in the Calls Creek basin, to allow the county to discharge directly to the Middle Oconee River.
That will allow the county to continue to expand it operation on the existing property just outside Watkinsville rather than move to some future site on the Middle Oconee River.
Haynie had already signaled his interest in expanding on the existing site at the meeting on Jan. 14.
By proposing construction of a new plant on the site last night rather than purchase of the movable refurbished plant, he further solidified that position.
Haynie also told the Board last night that he wants it to change its sewer policy on allocation of capacity.
He requested that the county change its current policy of splitting capacity equally between residential and nonresidential use.
Instead, Haynie asked the Board to set aside 40 percent of the capacity for residential use, 40 percent for commercial use, and 20 percent for industrial use.
The allocations would apply system-wide to include both the Calls Creek plant and the Rocky Branch Land Application System.
This requested policy change was anticipated, as Haynie had outlined it at the meeting on Jan. 14.
Specific Request On Plant
On Sept. 29, at Haynie’s request, the BOC approved spending $67,000 in earnest money to Heyward Incorporated Atlanta to purchase a refurbished Davco Field Erect Treatment System to be moved to Calls Creek.
Last night, Haynie recommended that the county forfeit that amount and instead spend $440,000 with a design to build contract with Crowder Construction of Conyers for the new plant.
If the Board approves the recommendation, Crowder will complete design work on the plant and then give the county a guaranteed price for construction.
The preliminary estimate from Crowder is that the cost will be between $6.7 million and $7 million. Haynie said he has the money on hand or available from future revenue from the county’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax to finance the project.
The Board will take up that request as well as the proposed policy on how to allocate the sewer capacity among residential, commercial and industrial needs at its regular meeting next week.
The county currently has a permit from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division for discharge of 1 million gallons per day into Calls Creek.
The permit is based on the current membrane filtration system.
The county will need a new permit for the proposed 1.5 million-gallons-per-day plant.
The county has been given what is called a waste load allocation of 1.5 million gallons per day for the creek, meaning that the creek can handle that capacity of discharge of treated sewage water.
The county will have to meet the standards set forth by the state in that waste load allocation for discharge into Calls Creek, Haynie told me in an email message today.
The full video of last night’s presentation by Haynie is below.
More information about the operation of the current plant and its reliance on membrane filtration is available from this video tour of the plant.