Oconee County Utility Department Director Wayne Haynie said he understands the negative reactions of people who live in subdivisions along Calls Creek to his plans to run a sewer line along the creek and through their yards.
If he were in their position, he acknowledged, he would be reacting in the same.
Haynie told a group of 25 assembled on Thursday night to talk about the county’s sewer plans that he is looking into alternatives to the proposed Calls Creek pipeline, including getting permission from the state to allow the county to discharge more treated sewage water into Calls Creek.
In the end, however, Haynie told the gathering, the county has committed to provide sewage treatment capacity it does not have, and his solution is to build more treatment capacity at the existing Calls Creek sewage treatment plant.
The proposed line down Call Creek is part of that effort to build capacity to meet current and future needs of the county, Haynie said.
Haynie’s comments were to a meeting of Oconeewaters, a local group focused on stream monitoring in the county.
Vicki Soutar, leader of the group, introduced Haynie and Erin Carlton, county Wastewater Utility supervisor, at the beginning of the meeting to give the pair a chance to update the group on sewer projects underway in the county.
Both focused on ongoing plans to expand the current plant on Calls Creek from a capacity of .667 million gallons per day of discharge to 1.5 million gallons per day.
Haynie said he expects construction to begin in June.
Haynie did mention the plans for the 24-inch pipeline as well, saying those plans had been the topic of a meeting with more than 70 residents and other concerned citizens on Monday night.
That meeting, as well as the one on Thursday night, took place in the auditorium at the Oconee County Library.
When Haynie asked for questions on Thursday night, the topic quickly turned to the pipeline.
Haynie acknowledged the impact the pipeline will have, saying “Obviously if you are a homeowner along Calls Creek, the prospect of having a new sewer in your back yard doesn’t set well.”
In response to a question about the sewer line’s impact on property values, Haynie acknowledged that “nobody likes to see the trees come down.”
Those two comments by Haynie are in the video below.
In response to the question about the impact of the 30-foot easement on property values, Haynie said there will be benefits as well.
Sewers usually increase property values, he said, as buyers prefer sewers to septic systems.
Haynie acknowledged, however, in response to a question from me, that the residents along Calls Creek are unlikely to get sewer service even though the pipeline would cross their properties.
The proposed pipeline would carry treated water from the plant, located outside Watkinsville on Durham Mill Way, to the Middle Oconee River.
Since the water at that point would be treated, the residents would not be able to discharge untreated sewage into the pipe.
Plant On Middle Oconee
Haynie said there are two scenarios under which the county could provide sewer service to the residents along Calls Creek in the future.
The sewage could be pumped back up Calls Creek to the plant outside Watkinsville for treatment, he said.
Or the county could build another plant downstream on the Middle Oconee River. Such a plan has been part of the county’s approach to sewage expansion since at least 2005.
Haynie said neither of those options is a part of the county’s current plans.
Pipeline Not New
Haynie told the group Thursday night that the pipeline proposal for Calls Creek is not a new one. He made a similar statement at the Board of Commissioner meeting on Tuesday night.
“It’s a project that’s been on our water and sewer improvements plans for many, many years,” Haynie said on Thursday night.
The county’s 10-Year Wastewater Strategic Plan FY 2015 to 2015 does list the Calls Creek pipeline, calling it a “Gravity Sewer Long-Range.”
That plan also lists another gravity sewer line, this one down McNutt Creek, and also shows that “Long Range.”
The plan also shows a “Future Middle Oconee WRF” at the confluence of Calls Creek and the Middle Oconee River.
WRF stands for Water Reclamation Facility, and that sewer plant has been a topic of conversation at Board of Commission meetings in the past, though the pipeline down Calls Creek has not.
Letter to EPD
Haynie told the gathering on Thursday night that he is negotiating with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division about the possibility of increasing the allowed amount of discharge of treated water from the Calls Creek plant to the creek from 1.5 million gallons per day to a higher number.
If the EPD would allow as much as 3 million gallons per day, the county would not need the pipeline.
On Friday, Haynie shared with me a letter he sent to the EPD on March 14, 2016, spelling out options for expansion of the existing facility to 3 million gallons per day.
One of those is an increased waste load allocation from 1.5 million gallons per day for discharge to Calls Creek to 3 million gallons per day.
If the EPD does not grant that request, Haynie said in the letter, the county will discharge directly to the Middle Oconee River via the proposed pipeline.
Haynie told the group that the county has customers lined up for 1.2 million gallons per day of the 1.5 million gallons per day capacity of the expanded Calls Creek plant.
“We’re just barely staying ahead of the projected growth,” he said.
The county’s other sewage treatment facility on Rocky Branch Road can only handle .4 million gallons per day.
That facility currently is operating at capacity and cannot be expanded.
Haynie said in response to a question that the county had spent between $15,000 and $20,000 for the survey work for the Calls Creek sewer line and would have a concrete plan in a couple of months.
Problems In Past
The county has gone out of its way to play down the problems at the Calls Creek plant in the past, but both Haynie and Carlton made reference to them in their presentations.
Minnows have returned to the creek at the point where the plant discharges, they said.
“It was thrilling to see this aquatic life starting to trust our effluent again and thrive in the area,” Carlton said.
“I can’t really speak of what happened prior to me,” Carlton said, “but I do know what I’ve been witnessing.”
The county hired Haynie in August following a series of operational problems at the Calls Creek Plant. Haynie hired Carlton six months ago.
Video Of Meeting
The comments made by Haynie and Carlton are in the video below.
Following the presentations by Haynie and Carlton, Soutar led a discussion of the adopt-a-stream program of Oconeewaters and other related activities.
The full video of the meeting, from which the clips above were taken, is below.