Oconee County Utility Department Director Wayne Haynie has said in recent meetings that the proposed sewer line down Calls Creek is not a new idea, and he is right.
The county has had that sewer line in its long-range plans since at least 2005.
And the pipeline down Calls Creek was to serve a different purpose in those original 2005 plans than it serves in the plans Haynie is now putting forward.
As recently as Nov. 2 of last year, the county sent a letter to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division saying that construction of a new sewer plant on the Middle Oconee River “is at the heart of Oconee County’s long-term wastewater treatment strategy.”
That strategy, the letter to the EPD said, calls for consolidation of sewer plants for the northeastern portion of Oconee County. The Middle Oconee River plant is to be fed by gravity lines “from a number of areas currently served by pump stations and force mains,” the letter states.
The gravity lines will reduce “system operation and maintenance costs and spills resulting from pump station failure,” according to the letter.
The letter asked the EPD to grant an extension of a 4 million gallons per day waste load allocation the county received in November of 2011 for the Middle Oconee River wastewater treatment plant until the county gets around to building that plant.
Calls Creek Pipeline
Because the county has not built the Middle Oconee River facility, the Nov. 2, 2015, letter states, the county needs to build a pipeline down Calls Creek so it can expand the existing Calls Creek plant outside Watkinsville beyond 1.5 million gallons per day of discharge.
In the language of the letter, the expansion of the Calls Creek plant “will necessitate the construction of a new main transmission outfall to carry treated effluent from Calls Creek WPCP to the Middle Oconee River until the Middle Oconee WRF is constructed.”
WRF stands for Water Reclamation Facility. WPCP seems to stand for Water Pollution Control Plant.
Residents of subdivisions along Calls Creek didn’t learn of this change in plans until February, when the county sent out letters to residents telling them of survey work for a potential sewer line.
Original Purpose Of Line
The sewer line that existed in the those long-range plans had a different purpose from the one discussed in that November 2015 letter.
The February 2005 Final Report Utility Department Long Range Wastewater Strategies recommended that the county build the Middle Oconee WRF and consider phasing out the Calls Creek plant.
If that Calls Creek plant were phased out, the county would need a sewer line down Calls Creek to the Middle Oconee River sewer plant to treat the sewage collected in and around Watkinsville.
If the Calls Creek plant continued to operate at the 1.5 million gallon per day level, no sewer line down Calls Creek would be needed, as the discharge would continue to go directly into the creek.
That 2005 plan stated continued operation of the Calls Creek plant was a possibility.
That 2005 plan was developed for the county by Jordan Jones & Goulding, then an Athens engineering and planning firm. Current Utility Department Director Haynie worked for JJ&G at that time.
The plan offered four options, and three of them, including the recommended one, called for construction of the Middle Oconee River WRF.
One unrecommended option called for expansion of the existing Calls Creek plant to 3.5 million gallons per day of treatment capacity.
That plan envisioned the need for a pipeline down Calls Creek to discharge treated waste directly into the Middle Oconee River.
But it also called for another pipe and pump from the Middle Oconee River to the plant in Watkinsville.
That second pipe would be necessary because all of the plans called for construction of sewer lines down McNutt Creek, which is a tributary to the Middle Oconee River.
McNutt Creek Line
If citizens were paying attention to more recent county plans for sewers and sewage treatment, they would have seen the Oconee County, Georgia, 10-Year Wastewater System Strategic Plan FY 2015-2025.
That plan shows a sewer line existing or now under construction along McNutt Creek from Bogart to Epps Bridge Parkway.
And it shows that line continuing down McNutt Creek in the future to a plant on the Middle Oconee River.
|Blow Up (Click To Enlarge)|
And if citizens had been listening at Board of Commissioners meetings as recently as May of last year, they would have known that the commissioners voted to spend $2.3 million to purchase a refurbished sewer plant with the idea that it would be moved to the Middle Oconee River when the plant was built there in the near future.
But the county has not built the Middle Oconee plant, and it has not built the McNutt pipeline beyond Epps Bridge Parkway.
Instead, Utility Department Director Haynie is now proposing to upgrade the Calls Creek plant to at least 3 million gallons per of capacity and to build the discharge line down Calls Creek.
The county hired Haynie in August after a series of operational failures both at the Calls Creek plant and at its other facility on Rocky Branch Road.
Haynie has been straightforward in presentations to the Board of Commissioners and the public at large in saying that the county faces a crisis.
Under his predecessor, the county sold more sewage capacity than it can provide with the current two plants.
And, since the Board of Commissioners did not buy the land somewhere on the Middle Oconee River for a new plant, his only option at present is to expand the plant at the existing Calls Creek site.
And, he said at a BOC meeting and in a meeting with the public, the line down Calls Creek that he will need for that expansion was in that 2005 document and is in the 2015-2025 plan.
In a letter written to the state Environmental Protection Division on March 14, Haynie gave a detailed view of the future of sewage treatment in the county.
First, he asked for an extension of the waste load allocation the county received in 2007 of 1.5 million gallons per day of discharge into Calls Creek so he can expand the current plant from .667 million gallons per day to the 1.5 million gallons per day level.
Second, he asked the EPD to consider allowing up to 3 million gallons per day of treated discharge directly into Calls Creek.
He also said the Calls Creek plant in the future might be expanded beyond 3 million gallons per day.
Future Of Middle Oconee Site
Haynie told the EPD that a decision on building the Middle Oconee River site was now up in the air.
“After updating the County’s Comprehensive Plan and the Water and Wastewater Master Plan in 2017,” he wrote, “we will revisit the Middle Oconee plant siting decision.”
Eliminating that Middle Oconee site is an attractive option, he wrote, because building a pipeline down Calls Creek “to a discharge point on the Middle Oconee River is a very cost-effective solution.”
Hayne said the pipeline down Calls Creek “can easily be seized to carry flows greater than 3 MGD, allowing us to use the existing Calls Creek plant site for the ultimate build-out of the basin.”
In sum, Haynie is returning to the unrecommended Option I in the 2005 sewer plan that JJ&G gave the county.
Rather than pumping sewage from the Middle Oconee River to the plant in Watkinsville, the plans calls for continued pumping of sewage from the deadend of the McNutt Creek sewer line at Epps Bridge Parkway to the Calls Creek plant via the existing line down Daniells Bridge Road and Government Station Road.
The Oconee County Board of Commissioners never adopted that 2005 plan as policy, though it did adopt the 10-Year Wastewater System Strategic Plan FY 2015-2025.
It is just a plan, of course, and subject to change.
Oconee County Commissioner John Daniell, running unopposed for Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, has told me he thinks the estimated $20 million cost of the Middle Oconee River WRF is prohibitive.
The costs of expanding the existing plant to $1.5 million gallons per day is estimated to be about $6.7 million.
The BOC has had no open discussion of the costs for the Middle Oconee River facility or for any of the other options beyond expansion to 1.5 million gallons per day.
What the BOC has discussed in executive sessions, which are closed to the public, isn’t possible to know at this point.
Friends of Calls Creek is organizing a meeting at the Oconee County Library from 7 to 9 p.m. on April 28 to give citizens a chance to discuss the sewer policy options before the county.
The blow up above is taken from this map from the 10-year Wastewater System Plan.
|Click To Enlarge|
This map can be downloaded from my box.net storage site by clicking HERE.