Monday, February 01, 2016

Oconee County Commissioners To Consider Changes In Sewer Policies And In Upgrade Plans

Increase Residential Capacity

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners tomorrow night will consider a request from its Utility Department director to increases by 28 percent the allocated capacity in the county’s sewer system for residential use.

Utility Department Director Wayne Haynie is asking the Board to set aside a policy it adopted on Dec. 2, 2008, but never actually implemented that said “that any additional capacity realized be restricted to commercial usage.”

Haynie tomorrow night also will recommend that overall sewer capacity be increased from its present 1,067,000 gallons per day to 1,900,000 gallons per day.

Haynie’s policy would be a reversal of policy prior to that 2008 vote that stated that 50 percent of sewer capacity in the county be designated for residential use.

Haynie is proposing that only 40 percent of system-wide sewer capacity be designated for residential use. He also wants to hold 10 percent of capacity in reserve.

If the 50 percent allocation were used for the 1.9 million gallons per day Haynie is recommending be built, residential sewer capacity would increase by 78 percent.

Capacity Increase

At the Board of Commissioners meeting last week, Haynie unveiled a plan to increase the capacity of the county’s Calls Creek Water Reclamation Facility from 0.667 million gallons per day to 1.5 million gallons per day.

Haynie At Work Session 1/14/2016

The county’s only other treatment facility, a Land Application System operation on Rocky Branch Road, has a 0.4 million gallons per day capacity.

The complete overhaul of the Calls Creek plant proposed by Haynie would bring the county’s sewage treatment capacity to 1.9 million gallons per day.

If the policy approved by the Board in 2008 were followed, none of that new capacity would be allocated for residential, meaning that future residential sewer capacity would stay at its current 533,500 gallons per day allocation.

At that meeting in 2008, the BOC also voted to upgrade the Calls Creek plant to 1 million gallons per day, but that never happened.

Under Haynie’s 40 percent residential policy with a 10 percent hold back, the residential capacity would increase to 684,000 gallons per day.

If the policy of splitting capacity between residential and nonresidential equally use were applied, the residential capacity would increase to 950,000 gallons per day.

Strategy Shift

Haynie also is proposing that the county abandon its commitment to membrane filtration technology borrowed from water treatment plants and return to a more traditional biological treatment facility.

In addition, he has suggested that the county not follow through on its long-range plans to build a treatment plant on the Middle Oconee River but instead consider expanding the existing Calls Creek plant to 3 million gallons per day at some point in the future.

With that expanded capacity, the county would have to build a pipe from the Calls Creek plant, probably roughly following Calls Creek, to the Middle Oconee River. The state has said that Calls Creek can only handle 1.5 million gallons of treated sewage water.

The Board will be asked to take action on those plans at the meeting tomorrow night as well. That meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the Courthouse in Watkinsville.


At the meeting of the Commission last week, Haynie said he would pay for the estimated $6.7 to $7 million cost of the upgrade of the Calls Creek plant to 1.5 million gallons per day by using three sources.

First, he said he would use $2.3 million on hand in capacity fees, that is money paid to the county by developers to reserve sewer capacity.

Second, he said he would use $1.2 million in unspent revenue from the 2009 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, collection for which ended in September of this year.

The third source of funding identified by Haynie is SPLOST 2015 revenue, which the county only began collecting on Oct. 1 of last year.

The county would be borrowing against the $10.2 million in projected revenue from SPLOST 2015 that has been designated for the Utility Department.

Money Diverted

The county actually had designated $6.9 million in 2009 SPLOST for water and sewer facilities, but the Board of Commissioners in May of 2014 diverted some of that money to pay off the debt on the county jail.

At the time, the county said it was transferring only $2.1 million from the water and sewer category to pay off early the debt on the jail and emergency operations center.

Yet in the official 2009 SPLOST report the county released at the end of last year, the county said it had spent just a little more than $1 million from the $6.9 million set aside for water and sewer needs. Those figures were for the period ending June 30, 2015.

Haynie used the $1.2 million figure for 2009 SPLOST revenues.

For reasons no one has explained publicly, the county underfunded the Utility Department in 2014 and 2015, resulting in a plant that was cited by the state Environmental Protection Division for violations of its permit.

A consultant hired by the county to look at the Calls Creek plant last spring said key pieces of equipment were not even operational and the facility was clogged with sludge.

Haynie was hired by the county in August to fix the problems at the Calls Creek plant and at the Rocky Branch LAS.

Change In Pipes

Chris Thomas, the Utility Department director whom Haynie replaced, had recommended to the BOC last year that it buy a refurbished sewer plant to use at Calls Creek until the county built a new facility on the Middle Oconee River.

At some point in the future, the refurbished plant would be moved to the Middle Oconee and used there.

At present, the county is building a gravity fed sewer line along McNutt Creek from Bogart to Epps Bridge Parkway.

At Epps Bridge Parkway, the sewage is pumped uphill to flow either to Calls Creek via a sewer that runs along Daniells Bridge Road and Government Station Road or is pumped all the way to the LAS site on Rocky Branch Road.

The plans have been to increasingly send that sewage to Calls Creek via the Daniells Bridge Road line.

Alternative Along McNutt Creek

The county’s 2015-2025 Strategic Wastewater System Plan shows a future gravity line that would run from Epps Bridge Parkway along McNutt Creek to a future plant on the Middle Oconee River.

Haynie’s plans to abandon at least in the near future plans for a plant on the Middle Oconee River would render unnecessary that gravity line along McNutt Creek.

But those plans would make the sewer line along the Calls Creek basin essential.

The McNutt Creek line would be along largely undeveloped properties.

The Calls Creek line would be through the middle of residential areas, including Hickory Hill subdivison, already developed along Calls Creek between Watkinsville and the Middle Oconee River.

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