The Georgetown Municipal Water and Sewer Service (GMWSS) rate increase has started showing up on customers’ bills.
Now, what will it go for?
GMWSS board members toured Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) 1 recently and saw firsthand some of the issues the utility is dealing with due to age and increasing demand as Scott County’s population continues to grow.
Plans are to expand WWTP 1, which at times in the last year, approached 90% of its capacity, said GMWSS General Manager Chase Azevedo.
“Wastewater Treatment Plant 1 is the big project,” Azevedo said. “On a 12-month rolling average, it has been approaching 90% capacity which is 4.5 million gallons per day. Earlier this year, we were above 90 percent based on the 12-month average.”
But during a tour of the WWTP 1 with the utility’s board, Azevedo and other employees highlighted other problems with the plant due to its aging infrastructure. With the expected expansion, the plant will be able to treat an additional 4.5 million gallons for a total of 9 million gallons.
“There are maintenance issues with the plant headworks, clarifiers, sludge processing and other parts of the treatment process,” Azevedo said. “As it gets older, the cost to repair the infrastructure keeps going up.”
During the tour, employees highlighted where it was hard to even get parts to make repairs because of the age of the equipment or it may not even be made anymore.
GMWSS went through a five-year strategic plan while determining rates. That plan identified 83 capital projects totaling $39.8 million in addition to WWTP 1 at about $45 million.
The tour highlighted where overflows, aging parts and breakdowns had occurred. Over the years, a barscreen building that captures trash and other debris in the flow coming in needs replacing as it has been worn down to the rebar.
Part of the process uses screens that gets solids. Those screens need to be cleaned daily, sometimes twice to get hair, flushable wipes and rags out of the system. Electrical systems are also aging and as staff would try to make repairs, one wire would break so they would have to rewire it. It took three days recently to identify where a problem was occurring because the wires kept breaking.
The plant has experienced its biggest issues this year during major rains events when the flow overwhelms parts of the system.
The expansion will improve the current system as well. For example, one motor runs three aerators in the oxidation ditch. That doesn’t allow for any flexibility to treat varying types and levels of nutrients that may need treatment, such as phosphorus. And when one motor or gear box goes out, the whole treatment process is stopped. New plans would have a separate motor and gearbox for each aerator to create zones for phosphorus and other nutrient removal.
The ditch is 14 feet deep and holds over 3 million gallons of wastewater. Again, if there is a storm and heavy rain, staff has to adjust the depth of the water because if it gets too high it can overflow the ditches and impede the treatment process.
Also, the office area at WWTP 1 used to be a shop. The control room is maxed out, so any new equipment with the expansion will take over the current office space. A new administration building will be part of the expansion plans.
Staff said the new admin building will be closer to the entrance gate to reduce the risk of people driving and wandering around the plant. They have actually had a group walking around the oxidation ditch “because it was a nice walking track.”
The plat is to expand the plant north of its current site, Azevedo said, and look at different options in regards to wastewater treatment processing technology. Part of the process is to decide how to mirror what GMWSS currently has in terms of oxidation ditch, clarifiers and other technology. Azevedo said they will pay for the property via monetary payment or some kind of property swap with the city.
“Part of this process is to look down the road and try the best we can to plan for the growth in the next five years and project flows for the next 20 years,” Azevedo said.
“The growth catches up to you quickly and catches you off guard.”
Steve McClain can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.