It's a time for celebration - and expansion - in Harlem these days.
Improvements are complete at the Harlem Waste Water Treatment Plant, allowing developers to proceed with planned new subdivisions.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"We should have bought some champagne or something," Harlem Mayor Scott Dean said with a grin at a June 13 City Council meeting after it was announced that a nearly four-year ban on new tie-ins to the city's sewer and water collection system had been lifted.
Dean said that since the ban by the Georgia Environmental Protection Agency was instituted four years ago this month, several developers have expressed interest to city officials about constructing residential subdivisions in the city.
"We had to basically turn people away until were are ready," Dean said.
The July 2001 consent order from the Georgia EPD prevented any new tie-ins to the system until required upgrades were completed.
Officials found that the infiltration of groundwater was overloading the system, causing the city's wastewater treatment plant to treat it along with wastewater. Officials said that aging clay pipes broken by tree roots in the city's older parts also contributed to the infiltration.
A substantial amount of groundwater also seeped into the system through a worn liner on the city's retention pond, officials said.
Dean said that $1.3 million was spent upgrading the plant a few years ago and another $300,000 was spent on pond rehabilitation including removal of sludge and installation of a new liner, which was completed in the spring. In addition, all pipes in the city were videotaped on the inside and a few have already been repaired.
"We still have thousands of feet that have to be repaired," Dean said.
The consent order was lifted with the parameter that the remaining clay pipes in need of repair will be fixed by 2008, according to a Georgia EPD letter to the city lifting the water/sewer tie-in ban.
Dean said the $1.4 million project, to be paid for by 2006-2010 one cent sales tax revenue, would go out for bid this month and the project is on schedule to be completed two years ahead of schedule.
When all is said and done, the city will have spent nearly $4 million on repairs and upgrades to the system, Dean said. The city is currently applying for a permit from the Georgia EPD to double the plant's capacity to treat 500,000 gallons per day, which it is already capable of handling with no more upgrades or expansions.
Dean said two developers, who are waiting to construct subdivisions that will total 260 homes, can now begin construction. He said he is in negotiations with a few more developers as well.
The lift of the ban also removes what Dean referred to as a death sentence.
"We've been on the death penalty for four years. If you can't make new connections, it's like the death penalty for cities. You either grow or you die. And if you can't make any new connections, you're pretty much in trouble," Dean said. "We're ready to see some growth. We've got to fight for some lost money."
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