Athens-Clarke County has excess capacity at its Middle Oconee Water Reclamation Facility, the sewer plant closest to Oconee County, an analysis of the Discharge Monitoring Reports for the plant since January of this year shows.
Athens-Clarke County also has a gravity feed sewer line running along its side of McNutt Creek, paralleling the sewer line that Oconee County is building from Bogart to Epps Bridge Parkway on its side of the stream.
That ACC sewer line would seem to offer an opportunity for Oconee County to connect easily to the Middle Oconee plant, at least in the short run, and meet its pressing needs for sewerage treatment capacity.
It also would be possible for Oconee County to extend the McNutt Creek gravity feed line on its side of the creek to near the ACC Middle Oconee plant. Oconee County’s long-range plans call for construction of that sewer line.
Oconee County Initiated Conversation
Oconee County has approached Athens-Clarke County about utilizing that county’s underutilized sewage treatment capacity, but so far those discussions have not been fruitful.
|ACC Service Area Map (Click To Enlarge)|
A regional approach to sewage treatment is consistent with an option presented to the county in 2005 by consultants Jordan Jones and Goulding, which said there would be advantages to such collaboration.
The conversation between Oconee County and Athens-Clarke County officials comes at a time when Oconee County finds itself in significant need of sewage treatment capacity and doesn’t have an easy way to provide it.
When Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis and Oconee County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko met with their ACC counterparts on June 30, Davis and Benko discussed swapping excess water for sewage treatment capacity.
Athens-Clarke Mayor Nancy Denson and Unified Government Manager Blaine Williams joined in that meeting.
According to Benko, it was “a short meeting with no meaningful results.”
Benko confirmed to me in an email message on Monday that water and sewer services were both discussed at the meeting.
Oconee County finds itself with excess water because it joined with Walton County in 2007 in construction of the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir in Walton County.
Neither county has the need for the water currently filling the reservoir, and Oconee County Commissioner Jim Luke, a member of the governing body of the reservoir, acknowledged that the counties are seeking long-term customers.
Athens-Clarke County has included the possibility of building its own reservoir in its 2015 Service Delivery Plan.
ACC is drawing water from the Bear Creek Reservoir, jointly owned and operated by Athens-Clarke County, Barrow County, Jackson County and Oconee County, only during drought conditions. The reservoir is in Jackson County.
Tiny Sewage Capacity
Oconee County has a tiny sewage treatment capacity compared to Athens-Clarke County.
At present Oconee County has a Land Application site permitted at 0.4 million gallons per day on Rocky Branch Road and a sewage treatment plant permitted at 0.667 gallons per day on Calls Creek on the edge of Watkinsville.
The county has a permit to increase the capacity of the Calls Creek plant to 1 million gallons per day.
The flow into those two treatment facilities at present is in the neighborhood of 0.8 million gallons per day, but the county has sold another 0.8 million gallons per day of treatment capacity to customers and does not have the ability to provide it.
The options are to upgrade the Calls Creek plant beyond the 1 mgd level or to build a new plant on the Middle Oconee River.
Middle Oconee For Oconee
The county has not bought land for it own Middle Oconee River plant nor has it built the in infrastructure to serve it.
At present, the county is proposing to run a sewer line down Calls Creek to feed a future plant or to carry treated sewage water from an expanded Calls Creek plant to the Middle Oconee River.
Residents living along Calls Creek have voiced strong opposition to the sewer line down the creek.
Athens-Clarke County has 28 million gallons of sewage treatment capacacity and is only using about half of that, according to the DMR reports for the first six months of this year.
Those reports, which are filed with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, show the Middle Oconee Plant, permitted at 10 million gallons per day, with a low monthly average flow of 2.6 mgd in June and a high of 5.8 in January.
I obtained those records through an open records request with Athens-Clarke County.
Athens-Clarke County would seem to be in a position to provide sewage treatment for Oconee County in relatively quick order.
Oconee County is in the process of completing its line along McNutt Creek from Bogart to Epps Bridge Parkway at Kohl’s.
Depending on the capacity and use of the Athens-Clarke County line, Oconee County could built a line to transfer that sewage under McNutt Creek to the Clarke County sewer line running to the ACC Middle Oconee plant.
That plant is located between Milledge Avenue and Old Macon Highway behind River Club student house complex.
Pumping At Present
At present, Oconee County is pumping sewage from the end of its McNutt Creek sewer line at Epps Bridge Parkway to the Calls Creek plant, and future plans call for expansion of that pumping operation with a larger line down Daniells Bridge Road and Government Station Road to the Calls Creek Plant.
Oconee County is not in a position to provide water to Athens-Clarke County any time soon.
Oconee and Walton counties do not have a water treatment facility for the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir, and they do not have the distribution infrastructure to circulate that water once it is treated.
The estimated cost for the additional investment is in the neighborhood of $85 million, or roughly equal to the amount the two counties have invested in construction of the reservoir to date.