Costly upgrades needed to make Georgetown’s wastewater treatment plant compliant

  • Friday, February 7, 2014

Scott Harper/SSN Georgetown’s Wastewater Treatment Plant will undergo a major upgrade to solve bacteria problems.

It’s a problem that has to be fixed. But to fix it is going to cost a lot of money.

The City of Georgetown’s Wastewater Treatment Plant - which cleans about four million gallons of water per day from the city, county and Town of Andrews - is out of compliance with the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s regulations, and has been for years.

The water is clean after it is treated but then it is placed in a 22-acre lagoon where it sits until it can be discharged into the Sampit River. That can only be done as the tide is going out.

During that holding time - especially during the summer months - a bacteria called Enterococcus forms in the water. City officials said that type of pollution is caused by seagulls and alligators that go into the retention pond.

It is bodily waste from the birds and alligators that cause the bacteria.

The City has been placed under Consent Orders four times since 2007 by the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) for failing to solve the bacteria problem.

It was thought that a solution to the problem would be to subdivide the holding pond so that water does not stay stagnant as long. However, at a recent planning retreat, Jonathan Heald, the city’s public service director, said dividing the pond would only be a Band-Aid for the problem.

“This is a high priority for me,” Heald told council, adding the pond division solution is like taking a pig and trying to put lipstick on it.”

“It is like trying to turn a donkey into a thoroughbred,” Heald said.

If a permanent solution is not found, the Environmental Protection Agency “will step in and shut us down,” Heald added. “I do not believe segregating the lagoon does anything. We would still have treatment problems.”

Options being considered, Heald said, include:

Modifications to the Influent Pump Station

Modifications to the Headworks, Bar Screens and Grit Separators

Construction of an Equalization Basin

Modifications to each of the three Reactors

Construction of an Acid Feed System

Conversion from Liquid Chlorine Disinfection system

Upgrading the Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition System (SCADA)

Heald said the reactors inside the wastewater plant “do not work well.”

He said he has had recent discussions with DHEC and believes a more comprehensive look at the wastewater treatment plant “and a plan that addresses the treatment problems is a better solution.”

Heald said Jacobs Engineering, which is already working with the city on the problem, will analyze the plant and draft an engineering report which will include recommended upgrades that need to be made and the associated costs.

“This report will be submitted to DHEC who will review and comment and eventually approve as a modification to the Consent Order,” Heald said.

Heald said once the report is drafted, his office will have a better idea of how much the needed improvements will cost. When pressed by council at the retreat for a figure, Heald said it could cost as much as $11 million.

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