Sunday, December 11, 2016

Georgia Environmental Protection Division Accepts Again Plans For Small Upgrade To Oconee County Calls Creek Sewer Plant

Original Allocation In 2003

Oconee County has received “concurrence” from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division for an upgrade of its Calls Creek wastewater treatment plant from its current 0.667 million gallons per day to 1 million gallons per day of effluent.

The EPD had approved an earlier design for the upgrade of the plant in June of 2015 and had approved construction of the project on Dec. 30, 2015, but the county did not move forward on those plans.

The EPD actually had allocated 1 million gallons per day of discharge from the Calls Creek in 2003 and approved a design for the plant expansion on Dec. 18, 2003.

The county submitted a modification to the 2015 plans this year, and Benoit Causse from the Municipal Permitting Unit of the EPD Wastewater Regulatory Program wrote to Oconee County Utility Department Director Wayne Haynie on Nov. 18 saying “We hereby concur with the document.”

Demand For Capacity

The county has been struggling with various plans for upgrading its Calls Creek Plant for years, and the acceptance of the plans by the EPD last month is only one step toward increasing capacity of the county’s sewage treatment system.

Abouhamdan, Right, Reviewing  Parkside Plans At DRC

Haynie, hired in August of 2015, initially had proposed that the county not stop at an upgrade that would provide only 1 million gallons per day of capacity but instead move immediately to 1.5 million gallons per day.

Then he suggested that the county actually start to plan immediately for an upgrade to the Calls Creek plant to 3 million gallons per day.

The county does not have permits for either of those upgrades and would need to find a way of discharging any treated sewerage plant effluent above 1.5 million gallons per day directly to the Middle Oconee River, since the EPD has said Calls Creek cannot handle more than 1.5 million gallons per day of treated wastewater.

A proposal to run a sewer line down Calls Creek to reach the Middle Oconee River has produced strong opposition from residents along the creek.

Plans for 1 MGD

In 2015, the county had proposed to the EPD that the existing Calls Creek plant be decommissioned in favor of a recommissioned Davco biological treatment system.

The plan was to purchase a used Davco system, bring it to the Calls Creek plant site, and use it until the county built a sewage plant on the Middle Oconee River.

The Davco system then was to be moved to the Middle Oconee River to be a part of the facility there.

The EPD “concurred” with the plan to use the Davco system in a letter of June 17, 2015.

Revision Again

The county submitted a revised plan to the EPD earlier this year that abandoned the plans for the recommissioned plant in favor of modification of the existing plant.

Haynie told me in a telephone conversation on Dec. 6 that the plans submitted to EPD rely on biological treatment, which has always been the key process of the Calls Creek plant.

In the past, membrane filters have been used to supplement the biological treatment.

Haynie said the plans at present are to defer the decision on whether to retain the membrane filtration system that is in place at the plant at present.

Haynie said it is possible to get the same level of effluent without membranes, which have proven to be costly and difficult to operate, with a different type of filter.

Pressure On County

The pressure on the county to increase the capacity of its sewage treatment system, which includes only the Calls Creek plant and a Land Application System, was in evidence at the Development Review Committee meeting on Friday morning.

Jenanne White, representing Haynie and the Utility Department at that meeting, told Abe Abouhamdan that the county needs to know about plans for the huge Parkside residential project that is coming out of dormancy.

Abouhamdan is representing the developer of the 810-lot residential subdivision that extends from Mars Hill Road to Hog Mountain Road and was before the county’s staff review committee to answer questions about the project.

“Right now, the staging and scheduling is very important because of the lack of sewer at the LAS,” White said.

What recommended that Abouhamdan be in touch with Haynie so the county can understand when Parkside will need the residential sewer it has paid for but not used until this point.

Abouhamdan was presenting plans on Friday for a 41-lot subsection of the larger project.


Anonymous said...

Lee, What amount does the county have a permit to discharge into calls creek, 1 million gallons or 1.5 million gallons?

Lee Becker said...

Several steps exist.
Fist, the EPD determines how much effluent a stream can handle. The waste load for Calls Creek is 1.5 million gallons per day.
Then the EPD allocates that amount to a user. The EPD has allocated the 1.5 million gallons on Calls Creek to Oconee County.
The EPD then reviews permit applications for actual use of the waste load, which specify how the plant is to operate and what it will discharge.
At present, Oconee County has a permit for 1.0 million gallons per day at its Calls Creek plant. The current design is only for 0.667 MGD, but the county now is allowed to expand that plant to 1.0 MGD.
If Oconee County wants to use the addition 0.5 MGD, it will have to get a permit.
If the county wants to go above 1.5 MGD, it will have to discharge that additional effluent to the Middle Oconee River, for which the county holds a waste load allocation of 4 MGD.
The county does not have a permit at Calls Creek beyond 1 MGD and does not have any permit for a plant on the Middle Oconee River.
Does that help?

Anonymous said...

That is very informative. Thanks.

barb carroll said...

this whole fiasco has cost the county hundreds of thousand (possibly millions) dollars as they move from one band-aid short-term fix to another...after spending the money to buy the mobile plant upgrade, hire consultants to design new plants, rethink/replan, submit insane new ideas to state agencies (e.g., dumping 3 million gallons/day directly into call's creek), etc.

and there is still no long-term viable plan 11 years since the only strategic evaluation of alternatives (more money spent) indicated that a middle oconee plant was the best option for the county (2005 study)

seems obvious to me:

1) new board must recall sewage sold on the cheap over a decade ago (e.g., parkside development) - call a moratorium to this hostage-holding of sewage capacity by developers that they now are trying to resell to other developers at the county's expense of time and monetary loss - call a moratorium to further growth until this situation is resolved. start fresh/clean slate.

2) new board must work with athens clarke county in a coooperative effort - they have the excess capacity and this has always been the most cost-effective, environmentally friends, and citizen friendly of all recent "fixes." this should now be possible without melvin davis as chair.

3) new board must revisit seriously the middle oconee plant. as i understand it, all lines running to clarke county plant could also be used for the new middle oconee plant.

4) new board must STOP diverting funds from sewage treatment plans to other things, e.g., paying off the jail

5) new board must take responsibility for rectifying horrible development plans approved under old board, particularly in melvin davis's first term, 2001-2004. find a legal way to set the clock back to zero on these bad decisions.

Xardox said...

Barb Carroll has an interesting and very true phrase: The developers can hold the entire county hostage to spread their costs over the entire tax-paying county. As I understand it, the huge development being considered on Hwy 53 near the elementary school has already purchased sewer capacity, and will use that to get its approval through despite serious misgivings about the project.
Band-aids abound. Too bad the details make our eyes roll to the backs of our heads, which is exactly what they are counting on.

Lee Becker said...


The huge development you reference is Parkside, mentioned at the bottom of this post and discussed in more detail here: