Officials said the reasons for the delay in the grand opening was two-fold: they wanted to make sure it was operating smoothly before inviting the public in to tour the facility and they were waiting for wet weather to allow the seeded grass to grow to help the aesthetics of the plant. Thus far, only relatively minor issues have been encountered with the plant itself and the grass has taken hold, though it will be re-seeded soon to fill in gaps left from the first planting.
“The grass could be better, but it’s been a difficult year for the landscaping. When they seeded we got another drought,” said Fred Hawkins of the project engineering firm Rindt-McDuff and Associates. “Everything else looks good. Not only are we meeting the EPD permit parameters, but we’re beating the socks off it. This plant is producing essentially zero (negative materials). It’s so close to zero it’s below the detection limits for most of the parameters.”
Construction began on the plant in late March 2009 and it was complete nearly a year ahead of schedule.
While the old plant had a capacity of 700,000 gallons per day and was operating under EPD consent orders, the new plant is state-of-the-art and triples the former capacity levels to 2.14 million gallons per day with an option to expand to more than 4 million gallons per day in the future.
“This facility is obviously a lot larger than the old facility, but obviously we had to have that,” Mayor J. Collins said. “I didn’t want to have to build a sewer plant, nobody wanted to have to build a sewer plant, but when you go from having a little town of 4,000 people to a thriving suburban town of 14,000 people you really have no choice. If you’re going to assume the burden of building a sewer plant, in my opinion, you need to build something that’s going to be here for generations to come.”
Collins added that it was a team effort in getting the plant built, not only quickly, but under budget.
“A lot of people have worked very hard on this project,” he said. “Several years ago when this was first being talked about it started out as going to be $33 million, but through some value engineering, and the fact that our council stayed true to their roots, we really pushed to trim the price of the sewer plant down. Unlike a lot of projects this large in scope, instead of the price escalating from a given dollar point it actually came down and hopefully we’re going to be able to open the plant up for less than $30 million.”
Hawkins explained that the treated water being released from the plant into the Little Tallapoosa River through a tributary is so clean it could very easily be recycled and used for cooling systems, irrigation and other needs for companies located in the industrial park. He wouldn’t suggest someone actually do it, but Hawkins went so far as to say you could drink the treated water leaving the plant.
“The effluent, what’s actually being released into the creek, is crystal clear water being released into a nasty creek,” he said. “Villa Rica went beyond what was required by EPD. We could have done this for less money, but they went beyond that because they were looking at the future.”
The city is currently working on an east-west connector line that would divert about half the daily wastewater load from the already taxed North Plant in Mirror Lake to the new plant, which is currently only treating about 550,000 gallons per day of its daily capacity of 2.15 million gallons. Even with the transfer the plant would only be treating about 800,000 gallons per day, leaving a lot of room for construction growth in the city once the economy turns around.