Thursday, April 25, 2019

Tours Of Oconee County Sewage Treatment Facilities Show Recent Investments And Future Plans

***Oconee Waters Organized Tours***

It was a cool, windy and rainy day that Vicki Soutar and Erin Carlton had agreed upon for tours of Oconee County’s two sewage treatment facilities.

Soutar, chair of the Oconee Waters unit of the Upper Oconee Watershed Network, wanted her group to be able to see the county’s new Calls Creek Wastewater Reclamation Facility on the northeastern edge of Watkinsville.

The tour was to be an update to one Soutar had organized back in December of 2015 after Carlton had taken over responsibility for the old plant. The plant had been plagued with operational problems prior to Carlton’s arrival.

Soutar also wanted her group to visit the Land Application System site off Rocky Branch Road in the northwest of the county.

Carlton, county Wastewater Utility supervisor, was happy to oblige.

A rain storm interrupted the day, forcing a rescheduling of parts of the visit to the Calls Creek facility.

The outcome of the original and rescheduled visits is video tours of the county’s two sewage treatment facilities that are detailed and informative and give a sense of the county’s investment in wastewater infrastructure in recent years.

The videos also provide a perspective on how the county is likely to move forward with sewage treatment in the future.

Tour Logistics

I am a member of Oconeewaters, and I had been a part of the tour of the Calls Creek plant Soutar organized back in December of 2015.

Carlton At Septage Receiving Station

I created a video of that tour.

I also had toured the new plant with Carlton in August of 2018 shortly after it began operation and created a video of that tour.

Construction was not complete at that time, but the old membrane filtration plant had been phased out in favor of the new system relying on biological treatment.

After the August 2018 tour, Carlton asked me to come back and do a full tour once the construction was complete and the new plant was fully operational.

So I jumped at the chance to join Soutar for the Oconee Waters tour on Feb. 12.

When rain forced an early termination of the tour of the Calls Creek plant, I rescheduled and completed the tour with Carlton two days later.

Land Application System Site

The Land Application System (LAS) site is located on 246 acres on Rocky Branch Road near North Oconee High School.

A tributary to Barber Creek runs along the edge of the property.

Sewage is treated by movement through a series of ponds, and the water is then sprayed onto hay fields on the property. The facility has a treatment capacity of 0.4 million gallons per day.

The tour on Feb. 12 was shortly after the county announced that it was decommissioning the major sewer line that runs along Rocky Branch Road and feeds the LAS.

On March 27, Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell announced that he will be asking the Commission in the near future to decommission the Land Application System itself.

Daniell said the county can divert sewage now treated at the LAS to the Calls Creek plant and convert much of the land now used for the LAS to a county park.

The decommissioning, if approved by the commissioners, is in the future.

During the Feb. 12 tour, Carlton talked about the operation of the LAS facility and some of its strengths and limitations.

Calls Creek Plant

Oconee County officially opened the new $14.4 million Calls Creek Water Reclamation Facility on Jan. 9 of this year.

Construction at the plant, 1100 Durhams Mill Way, was in two phases.

The first phase, needed for the switch over from the old treatment facility, was complete when I did the tour in August of last year.

The second phase, adding other new facilities and cleaning up the construction site, was completed by the end of the year.

The plant, with a capacity of 1.5 million gallons per day, is fed by a sewer line flowing down Calls Creek.

The plant’s head works, or the point where sewage flows into the plant, is on the banks of Calls Creek.

The plant discharges clean, treated water into a tributary of Calls Creek just upstream from the head works.

Tour Itineraries

The tours of the LAS and Calls Creek plant began at the head works of the facilities.

In the case of the LAS, the tour followed the movement of water from pond to pond on the site.

The Calls Creek tour followed the flow of liquids from the head works to the point where the water is treated and is ready for release to Calls Creek.

The tour then doubled back and followed the flow of solids from the point where they are removed from the sewage to where they are processed for transfer to a land fill.

At that point, Carlton and I went to the actual discharge pipe from which treated water is related to the tributary of Calls Creek.

The tour ended with visits to the new office building on the site and the laboratory, now dedicated fully to that purpose.

I marked the stops on the Calls Creek tour in the aerial view of the plant below. Jake Hayes, Carlton’s assistant, provided the drone shot for me after the tour.

Aerial Photo With Tour Stops Numbered (See Text)
Click To Enlarge

Tour Stops (Water): 1. Head Works; 2. Septage Receiving Station; 3. Equalization Basin; 4. Splitter Box; 5. Aeration Basin #1 and Clarifier #1; 6. Future Aeration Basin #2 and Clarifier #2; 7. Effluent Filter and UV Building; 8. Effluent Flume; 9. Cascade Step Aeration; and 15. Discharge Pipe.

Tour Stops (Solids): 10. Rotary Drum Screens; 11. Aerated Sludge Holding Tank; 12. Old Clarifiers; 13. Digester; and 14. Screw Press Building.

Tour Stops (Other): 16. Office Building and 17. Laboratory.

Future Plans Discussed

Carlton was a knowledgeable, articulate and engaging tour leader. He responded clearly to questions posed throughout.

And it was obvious that he is proud of and cares very much about the operation of the two plants.

Included in his comments were discussions of the differences between the old plant and the new and plans for the future.

The tour included the newly opened Septage Receiving Station that allows the county to accept sewage from septic haulers and the Screw Press Building, where solids are carried to a waste container for shipment to a landfill.

Carlton discussed how these solids could be composted and used in the future.

During the visit to the Plant Office Carlton demonstrated the monitoring system for the operation of the plant and discussed how it allows him to control what is done at the plant remotely.


The two videos below are of the tours.

In each case, editing is rudimentary. I did offer commentary on a second audio track where I judged it necessary.

The LAS tour is only a little more than 20 minutes in length.

The LAS site is at a high point in the county, and the fields are open. The wind on Feb. 12 was quiet strong and sometimes interfered with the audio.

The Calls Creek tour is runs an hour and 25 minutes in length.

That includes both the Feb. 12 interrupted tour and the Feb. 14 resumption of the tour.

It is possible, of course, to pick and choose in viewing the parts of the tour.

One thing that is missing from the video tours is the smell.

In fact, there was no smell of sewage at the LAS site and none once we left the head works at the Calls Creek plant.

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