Wastewater plant upgrades under way

Published 10:53 am Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Decatur County Industrial Park’s wastewater treatment plant has been in need of serious upgrades for several years, but those improvements are now starting to become a reality.

Last Wednesday, Interim County Administrator Gary Breedlove and Plant Supervisor Mike Miller observed as a new decanter was installed in one of the plant’s sequencing batch reactors. A decanter helps separate solids from waste water and serves as a key part of a wastewater plant’s filtration system.

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On Aug. 23, 2011, the Decatur County Board of Commissioners approved spending approximately $2.87 million on the plant’s upgrades, with $1.67 million coming from a federal grant. The improvements are necessary because the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) issued a consent order in April 2011 that orders the county to fix problems with river pollution and old equipment.

“My most recent conversation with the EPD is that I want us to have the best wastewater treatment plant in Georgia,” Breedlove said. “This is work that probably should have been done years ago, but it’s important that it’s at least getting done now.”

Under the current set-up at the facility, wastewater from the industrial park buildings is fed through several filtration systems. Eventually it settles in one of two large batch reactors, where it is filtered further and sent to an equalization basin. Much of the solids is collected as “sludge,” which is eventually treated chemically and allowed to dry into bricks and clumps that can be transferred to the landfill. At the end of the filtration processes, the cleaned water is pumped back into the Flint River.

Miller said that there have already been considerable improvements at the facility, and the proof can be seen in the chemical testing measurements the plant is required to take. The plant is “allowed” by the EPD to have an unaccounted-sludge threshold of a maximum of 18 percent. Its most recent reading in April was only 8 percent, and similar other readings are well below the maximum allowable levels as well.

“We are constantly testing and taking readings,” he said. “In addition, we get visits from the EPD all the time, and they don’t announce when they are coming. We are very highly regulated.”

The plant features two batch reactors, each about 18 to 20 feet deep, and an equalization basin about 14 to 16 feet deep. However, one of those batch reactors is currently drained and out-of-commission, so that the decanters and other new heavy equipment can be installed.

Later this week, additional valves will be installed at Reactor 1, which was initially drained Thursday, May 17. Miller stated that the plant can still work smoothly with one reactor in operation. Once the work is completed with Reactor 1, it will be put back into commission, and Reactor 2 will be drained and upgraded.

Breedlove said that Griffin Crane Services, a Decatur County company, was contracted to install much of the new equipment. The decanters and other devices themselves were purchased from Aquarobic International Company of Ferrum, Va.

“This is very heavy equipment that isn’t just lying on a shelf somewhere,” Breedlove said. “It has to be built first and then shipped here, so it’s a process that can take a while.”

The Economic Development Administration, which is providing the federal grant, requires for all upgrades to be completed within a two-year window, which began in 2012.