A southern Georgia community has began work at its water treatment facility on a $1.8 million dam intended to avoid leaks to a river that runs into Florida.
Local authorities in Valdosta recently broke ground on the project at the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Facility in town.
The equalization basin is expected to more than twice the volume of raw waste that can be collected by the plant after intense flooding, as drainage tanks are breached by rain water. The reservoir of 7.26 million gallons is meant to avoid untreated sewage from pouring into the Withlacoochee Channel, which ultimately runs into the Suwannee Channel and the Gulf of Mexico.
In 2016, after overflow problems at an earlier plant, Valdosta built the plant, one of two which it operates, resulting in a December 2013 consent order agreed by the city. But there appear to be issues with the new factory. The city mentions a storm in December 2018 that dropped more than 11 inches of rain for many days, with freshwater pouring through the facility at 10 times the average regular volume of 3.5 million gallons.
“When the plant was built it was designed to hold four times its average capacity. When we had the major rain event back in December 2018, we realized we needed to add extra capacity,” Valdosta Utilities Director Darryl Muse said in a statement.
In December, the town leaked about 7.5 million gallons over four days after a contractor refused to link a wire. A string of leaks at both wastewater facilities at Valdosta going back to 2014 contributed this spring to the Georgia Environmental Protection Agency fining the community with $122,000 while also requiring a variety of upgrades.
The new basin is scheduled to finish in October and is funded by local sales tax money.