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City says sewage plant is viable

POSTED: January 12, 2012 5:58 p.m.
Photo by Pat Donahue/

Carl Hofstadter shows the path of groundwater flow from Guyton’s proposed wastewater treatment plant. The city held a public hearing on the plant Tuesday morning at Guyton Civic Center.

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Building a wastewater treatment plant would be cheaper than the alternatives, a Guyton City Council member said Tuesday morning.

The city held a public hearing on its proposed sewage treatment plant at the Guyton Civic Center, and alderman Ulysses Eaton said the city’s push for its own plant will serve it better than tying into Effingham County’s system.

“On our side, it came down to brass tacks, financially,” he said. “It’s going to cost us less to build our own plant. And when this county booms again, there’ll be a plant on this side of the county.”

The city is using from 65,000-85,000 gallons per day of its 107,000 gallon-per-day allotment at Springfield’s sewage treatment plant. Springfield’s plant can handle up to 500,000 gallons per day, but it is running out of room at its sprayfield, Eaton said.

“The city of Guyton is faced with a problem of what to do with its wastewater,” engineer Carl Hofstader said.

Guyton has a bond issue of more than $9 million, approved last summer, to cover construction of the plant, the infrastructure needed to tie existing customers into it and the cost of the land purchased for it. The city also has scaled back its original plans for the plant, discarding their initial concept of a 500,000 gallon-per-day plant for one that is half the size.

From the bond proceeds, the city will use about $2 million for the land it purchased, another $2 million for the piping and other means necessary to tie their current customers into the new system and about $4.7 million to build the new plant.

The pricetag for extending sewer lines to the county’s wastewater treatment plant was seen as much higher than the expense of a new plant. There also were questions about how to split up revenues from connections and tap fees to the line from Guyton to the county’s plant.

“Financially, it was just a better decision for Guyton to go out here,” Eaton said. “It wasn’t the best move for us to tie into the county. How are we going to pay back the $5 million loan on the pipe, if we’re not getting all those customers down there through?”
But opponents to a proposed wastewater treatment plant along Riverside Drive weren’t swayed from their positions Tuesday

morning. Though attendance at the hearing was sparse, questions of Hofstadter and the city were frequent.

Craig Barrow, who owns land near the proposed wastewater treatment plant,  issued his concerns on the financing for the treatment plant. Barrow, who has spent 45 years in the investment sector, said the bond writers didn’t know of the poverty in the area.

“It’s going to be a burden eventually on the taxpayers of the county,” he warned. “The city of Guyton doesn’t have the people to repay it.

“The last time y’all came in here, everybody made these great projections and they were so far off it was pathetic. Pathetic. I challenged Carl if he would make this loan at his bank. He said, yes he would, he would loan the city the money. His bank’s not there today.”

Barrow also said the city was banking on 84 new tie-ins a year but “and there haven’t been 84 hookups” since the last public meeting. Hofstadter agreed with Barrow’s assessment and added the city isn’t pinning its hopes on future customers.

“We’re not counting on those developments,” he said. “We can’t.”

Eaton said with the existing customers the city has it can maintain enough revenue to pay for the plant.

Hofstadter, the city’s engineer for the project, also faced questions on how high floodwaters have reached in the area and how that flow will be handled. Ogeechee Riverkeeper  Dianna Wedincamp said members of her organization will submit photos, as part of the report to the state Environmental Protection Division, showing where floodwaters have reached in the past.

The plant itself will be 65 feet above sea level and will use 40 acres of 200 acres available for sprayfields.

“We will stay out of the flood plain,” Hofstadter said. “The flow of groundwater goes away from Riverside Drive.”

Yet Barrow also asked about what would be flowing in the groundwater if pharmaceuticals and medications are flushed down drains. Hofstadter said there is no requirement to remove those from the waste stream. But engineers estimated that the Bermuda grass sprayfield and the biological treatment the waste undergoes will remove from 98 percent to 99 percent of the pharmaceuticals.

“At this time, the EPA does not consider it a health risk,” Hofstadter said.

Replied Barrow: “EPD is making a huge mistake because they can’t get rid of the medicinal effects that are going to go into the water table. That’s wrong. EPD might say it’s OK. But there’s evidence all over the United States that it’s wrong.”

Hofstadter said there are “hundreds” of similar wastewater treatment plants operating safely.

“But there are hundreds that aren’t,” Barrow countered. “And there are hundreds of them that have been put adjacent to a flood plain that have flooded and polluted rivers all across America. We’ve seen the river at the 100-year flood stage. The risk is significant.”

Hofstadter reiterated that the new plans call for a sprayfield and not a discharge of treated wastewater into the river. Citizens complained vociferously about that at earlier meetings.

“We were going to do a reuse plan and discharge into the river when we couldn’t spray it somewhere, and that came through loud and clear — we don’t want you to go into the river.”

Eaton said the plant should last about 30 years and there is room to expand, should the need arise. He also said the city would like to be able to serve residents along Old Louisville Road, who have had problems with their septic tanks during floods. However, the cost for them to tie in may be prohibitive.

“We will encourage the citizens along Old Louisville Road to tie in,” he said. “It would be great to get rid of the septic tanks that flood.”

Barrow, however, vowed to keep fighting against the wastewater treatment plant.

“We’re going to do everything we can see to see that it won’t happen,” Barrow said.

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