The Valdosta Daily Times
Ten golden shovels were imbedded in the soil Wednesday at the new site of the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant off of Wetherington Lane.
Shortly after a speech from Mayor John Gayle and City Manager Larry Hanson, a few city council members, city officials, department heads, and the engineers overseeing the project broke ground on the city’s $32 million force main project.
The project marks the beginning of the city’s efforts to alleviate the spill of sewage into waterways — a situation that has been occurring for several years during heavy, long-term rains.
A force main is a principal conduit, typically in a sewer system, where water is pumped rather than allowing it to flow by gravity.
“I’m excited. This is the culmination of a lot of planning, a lot of thought, and a lot of struggles. We’re excited to see things getting started,” Gayle said. “It’s just another sign of how the City of Valdosta looks to the future.”
Other city officials echoed Gayle’s comments.
“This is an exciting day. We’ve been working hard to get to this point acquiring property, going through the design process, permitting process, so today, to turn the shovel to begin the project is a very rewarding day because now we can see the end, and the completion, which is an 18-month construction schedule,” Hanson said.
This project includes a 6.2-mile-long force main before moving to other aspects of plant construction.
“Then we’ll build a new collection system that will ultimately end up here at this site, and down at the existing plant, to be discharged into the river,” Hanson said. “This also includes multiple new pump stations along the way. This will allow us to remove the 54-inch line where we’re having the flooding problems when we have the major regional issues that overtake our collection system.”
The force main project will be funded by a low-interest Georgia Environmental Finance Authority loan that will be paid back with revenues collected from the Special Purposes Local Option Sales Tax VII.
“We have a short-term loan that allows us to accelerate the process. Had we used SPLOST alone, which is collected one month at a time, so we wouldn’t have all of the proceeds until the year 2020,” Hanson said. “But by borrowing the money and paying it back with the SPLOST, we can accelerate the process and pay it back with the SPLOST tax.”
Two engineering firms are involved in the project — Parsons, on design; Garney Construction, on construction.
“The city is fortunate to be working with some of the most talented design and construction companies in their fields on some of the most significant projects in our department’s history,” said Director of Utilities Henry Hicks about Parsons and Garney Construction. “We look forward to the completion of the force main project and new Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant and for their positive impacts on our sanitary sewer system and the overall quality of services to our citizens.”
The completion of this project is expected to eliminate 50 percent of the city’s inflow and infiltration problems, Hanson said.
The Valdosta City Council is expected to award the contract to relocate the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant during its meeting at 5:30 p.m. today. This project is expected to cost approximately $22-$23 million, with the same aggressive 18-month completion deadline.