Valdosta Daily Times

February 5, 2014

Valdosta sewer work update

Matthew Woody
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — At the City of Valdosta’s retreat in January, officials laid out plans for the repairs to the current Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), the overall goal to relocate the WWTP out of the 10 year floodplain, and the installation of the force main project.

Due to the issues created in 2013 from a severe flooding incident in February of 2013, the Environmental Protection Division issued a consent order to the city, but did not require a fine. However, the City of Valdosta is under a time constraint to make improvements to the current WWTP until it can be relocated.

City Manager Larry Hanson said in late January, “The city has completed five of six projects at the existing plant for approximately $2.5 million dollars to assist the plant in the short term while the new plant is designed and built.”

The city has already purchased 75 acres for the relocation project. This land is 60 feet higher than the current facility and the city released a potential layout for the new WWTP on the land.

In November, the City of Valdosta was awarded a $36.7 million Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) loan by the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) to fund the Force Main Project and the relocation of the WWTP.

Relocating the plant is expected to cost the city approximately $20 million, whereas the Force Main Project is expected to cost the city $32 million. The City has allocated funds from the SPLOST VII referendum to pay for these projects.

The City of Valdosta set aside $52 million of their SPLOST VII revenue for the Force Main Project, the relocation of the WWTP, and debt repayment, and the City also allocated $3.4 million from SPLOST VII for inflow and infiltration repairs. They will begin to draw $16 million from their GEFA loan this year and $16 million from this loan in 2015 to begin the two main projects, which includes the relocation of the WWTP and the Force Main Project.    

During their retreat, the City Council discussed a payment plan to pay off their GEFA loan by the year 2020. The city will begin paying off the GEFA loan with SPLOST VII revenue by paying $500,000 in 2015; $1 million in 2016; $6 million in 2017; $10 million in 2018; and $14.5 million in 2019-2020, said Mark Barber, Valdosta's deputy city manager of administration, not including interest.

The Force Main project is expected to significantly reduce or eliminate most sewer overflows because the project will construct two major pump stations, two minor pump stations, a 6-mile 32-inch and 40-inch force main. The project will replace an existing 54-inch gravity sewer main to the current plant.

The Force Main Project is scheduled to be bid out by the end of this month, and should be completed around April 2015.

The City will begin bidding for construction of the new WWTP this month, the contract could be awarded as soon as April, and construction could begin in June; December 2016 is the expected completion date.

These improvements should be a sigh of relief to residents that have been affected by the city's sewage flooding issues, especially those residents of Meadowbrook area.

In late August, these residents filed a law suit against the city for damages and injunctive relief over the sewage spills in their neighborhood. They claimed that the city failed to properly operate and maintain the municipal sewage system.

“The suit contends that raw sewage has been discharged onto their properties, into two of their residences, and filling one resident’s swimming pool,” a September issue of the Times stated. “'The filth from the sewage overflows included, among other things, used toilet paper, human waste, used condoms, condom wrappers, used tampons and used tampon applicators.'”

When asked for an update on this suit, Hanson said, “The city does not comment on ongoing litigation.”