Sunday, February 05, 2017

Oconee County Commissioners Being Asked To Spend Money On Calls Creek Expansion Beyond 1.5 Million Gallons Per Day

At Least $900,000 Added

Oconee County Utility Department Director Wayne Haynie will ask the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night to spend $13.5 million for an upgrade to its Calls Creek wastewater treatment plant, including at least $900,000 for expansion of the plant beyond the initial 1.5 million gallons per day of capacity.

The $900,000 is part of just less than $2 million the Utility Department asked Crowder Construction Company in March of last year to add to its estimated costs for the wastewater plant expansion.

At least some of those additional costs beyond the $900,000 also are related to expansion of the plant to 3 million gallons per day in capacity, according to documents Crowder gave the county.

The added initial construction costs for the plant upgrade to 3 million gallons per day are only part of the total amount needed for expansion of the Calls Creek plant beyond the proposed 1.5 million gallons per day in capacity.

The county would have to spend an undetermined amount to build other components of the expanded plant, to increase the capacity of the sewer lines feeding the plant, and to build a new sewer line for handling treated effluent for the larger plant, possibly down Calls Creek.

Expanding the plant also would bring additional raw sewage to Calls Creek, challenging the ability of the creek to assimilate that untreated waste in the event of a spill.

Commission Decision

Haynie said last week he has no plans to ask the Board of Commissioners to approve construction of a sewer line down Calls Creek at this time. The proposed line has been opposed by residents along the creek.

Redundant Clarifier Shown (Click To Enlarge)

The county does not need that pipeline for the 1.5 million gallons per day expansion that will consume the bulk of the $13.5 million in construction costs, but the county would need some way to handle treated effluent if it goes beyond 1.5 million gallons per day because the state has said Calls Creek can only handle 1.5 million gallons per day of treated effluent.

Board of Commissioners Chairman John Daniell has said the county needs to look to the Middle Oconee as the site for increased sewage treatment capacity, but he has not given a time line for that shift.

Tuesday’s vote will be an indication of the resolve of the Commission to make that move now rather than continue to hedge its bets by spending extra money that is unnecessary if the county holds firm on the decision to not go beyond 1.5 millions gallons per day at Calls Creek.

Escalating Costs

The cost of the upgrade to the Calls Creek, located on the north side of Watkinsville, has been increasing dramatically over time.

Back in February of last year, the figure was put at between $6.7 and 7 million.

Crowder, in a report it did for the county dated Oct. 21, 2016, said the starting figure was $7.2 million in December of 2015 and climbed to $9.4 million in March of 2016.

The final figured used by Crowder for the project in that Oct. 21 report was $13,646,827, rather than the $13.5 million being used by Haynie.

The county already has awarded the contract to Crowder for the project. Crowder has offices in Conyers.

March Additions

In March, according to the Crowder report, Oconee County asked for $1,956,036 in “owner selected alternatives.”

Included was $900,000 for a second clarifier for the plant, which would be used as part of a future plant expansion to 3 million gallons per day but not required if the plant were only to be 1.5 million gallons per day.

Haynie presented a diagram of that clarifier to the Board of Commissioners at its work session on Jan. 18. A clarifier is used to remove solid particulates or suspended solids from liquid.

The Crowder Oct. 21 report lists site work and yard piping, a splitter box and pump station, and an effluent building with electrical room addition as being “sized for 3 MGD” and contributing extra costs to the expansion of the plant to 1.5 million gallons per day.

The report does not break those costs out separately, indicating what might be saved if the project were not being built to be expandable.

Other Costs

The county has not put forward a figure for the additional construction costs to expand the Calls Creek plant from 1.5 million gallons per day to 3 million gallons per day.

Jimmy Parker, a consultant to the county on the project, told the Commission at its meeting on Jan. 18 that the sewer lines the county plans to upgrade from Epps Bridge Parkway to the Calls Creek plant are not sufficient, even after the upgrade, to pump 3 million gallons per day of sewage to the Calls Creek plant.

In addition, the county will have to find a way to get the additional effluent from the plant to the Middle Oconee River.

The initial proposal was to run a sewer line down Calls Creek, but citizen opposition to that proposal has been loud and persistent.

Last fall, Haynie and Parker reported that the construction cost for the Calls Creek line would be $4.8 million, and the cheapest alternative was $3.7 million.

Middle Oconee Option

Back in 2005, consultants recommended that the county build transmission lines along McNutt Creek to a new sewer plant on the Middle Oconee River near Simonton Bridge Road.

The county has done nothing to advance those plans, spending money instead to expand its sewer collection system up McNutt Creek to serve Bogart.

The county has not purchased land for a Middle Oconee plant and has not come up with firm plans or costs for a plant.

The question before the Board on Tuesday is whether it is better to invest additional money in the Calls Creek plant that would allow for expansion in the future or to invest that money in a Middle Oconee site and its infrastructure.

Assimilative Capacity

At the BOC meeting last week, Haynie said that Calls Creek has been able to handle the spills that have taken place over the years at the plant and from the lines feeding it.

The Calls Creek plant currently is permitted for only 667,000 gallons per day and has normal flow in the neighborhood of 400,000 gallons per day.

Whether the creek could handle a spill with a plant treating 3 million gallons per day of raw sewage is another question.

The only indication of the creek’s assimilative capacity is the 1.5 million gallons per day limit the state has put on the release of treated sewage to the creek.

NOTE: AN EARLIER VERSION OF THIS POST USED THE FIGURE $17.5 RATHER THAN $13.5 MILLION FOR THE COST OF THE PLANT. THIS WAS A TYPO THAT WAS NOT CORRECTED, THOUGH THE FIGURE $13.5 WAS USED DEEPER IN THE STORY. I AM VERY SORRY FOR THE ERROR.

4 comments:

Barb Carroll said...

this is totally insane. the county cannot afford (on all dimensions) this travesty.

boc, take this money and apply it to best and long-term solution...a middle oconee plant. work with clarke-county as necessary constructing only lines that will feed into the middle oconee plant when completed.

haynie needs to be fired immediately. he has no regard for the citizens, environment, beauty, and pocketbook of oconee county.

Anonymous said...

December 2015: $7.2 million

February 2016: $6.7-7 million

March 2016: $9.4 million

October 2016: $13.5 million

February 2017: $17.5 million


What in the heck is happening here? Who's in charge? These cost fluctuations are completely unacceptable, would never pass in the private sector.

Safe to say we should have little confidence in the Public Utility Dept. at this time. Craziness!!

Anonymous said...

LANCE HAYNIE & JOHN DANIELL: Please negotiate with Athens-Clarke County!!!

They have the excess capacity. A ten million dollar cost differential in a year's time??

How many cost overruns and unforeseen expenses will pop up down the road?

I just don't have any faith in the Public Utility Dept. Who is looking out for today's county residents? So disappointed by the county's back and forth and "wishy-washiness", drama, firings, resignations, etc. for the past few years with Public Utilities and sewer issues.

Melvin and Jim Luke grossly overestimated the need for water ten years ago and cost taxpayers tens of millions in bond payments.

Commissioners: Learn from past mistakes. Please do not repeat history. John Daniell, this is your time to lead and lead decisively.

Anonymous said...

NOTE: AN EARLIER VERSION OF THIS POST USED THE FIGURE $17.5 RATHER THAN $13.5 MILLION FOR THE COST OF THE PLANT. THIS WAS A TYPO THAT WAS NOT CORRECTED, THOUGH THE FIGURE $13.5 WAS USED DEEPER IN THE STORY. I AM VERY SORRY FOR THE ERROR.

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Even with the correction:

February 2016: $6.7-$7 million
http://www.oconeecountyobservations.org/2016/02/oconee-county-commission-votes-to-use.html

February 2017: $13.5 million


An almost 100% increase in a year's time, not counting cost overruns & change orders, which are commonplace with such projects. The Friends of Calls Creek has been tracking all these changes carefully; their heads must be spinning. This Public Utilities nonsense needs some closure ASAP.