Columbia County commissioners are expected to approve Tuesday a $20 million bid to expand a county wastewater treatment plant.
Water Utility Director Billy Clayton said the expansion that will double the capacity of one of the county’s four wastewater treatment plants, is necessary preparation for expected growth.
“Columbia County will need this additional capacity,” Clayton said.
The entire wastewater treatment system – including the Little River, Reed Creek, Crawford Creek and Kiokee Creek water pollution and control plants – is capable of treating up to 12.5 million gallons of wastewater a day. Clayton said the average usage is about 70 percent of the total capacity or about 8.75 million gallons a day.
The expansion will increase the capacity of the Red Creek plant from 6 million to 12 million gallons a day. The project includes building two aeration basins, four clarifiers, pump stations, return pumping stations and the associated materials and equipment needed to operate.
The project also includes moving a grit collector that will be too small for the expanded plant to the Reed Creek plant and paving a gravel access road. The expansion also includes the ability to treat phosphorus, which isn’t yet necessary, but Clayton said he expects it to be required of water treatment systems soon.
The entire expansion is expected to cost $20,593,000.
“It’s a lot of money,” Clayton said. “It makes me flinch a little bit. We need that wastewater treatment.”
The county got a $18 million revenue bond to pay for the project. The remainder of the cost will come from the Water Utility’s Extension and Renewal fund. The bond, similar to a loan, will be repaid over time.
“When you are expanding plants like that, that’s the right thing to do, to borrow the money,” Clayton said. “Because that expansion isn’t necessarily for folks who are here now, but for folks who are yet to come. So that will give them an opportunity to help pay for that.”
Clayton said the expansion is at a wastewater plant in the heart of current and expected future growth, along the Euchee Creek basin.
But the large price tag also comes with a long life, Clayton said.
“Once we get through (construction and permitting), this should probably carry (the county) through 2025,” Clayton said.
He expects construction to take 24-30 months.