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Midway looks at how to meet future water needs
midway sign
A sign welcomes motorists to Midway. - photo by File photo

MIDWAY — A team of engineers is preparing its draft report on Liberty County’s water needs for the future, and Midway City Council members were told those demands could outpace their capacity in the coming years.

City engineer Trent Long, who along with Paul Simonton, Marcus Sack and Chris Stovall of Thomas and Hutton makes up a technical committee for the local water resources council, are close to completing a draft look at the water needs, particularly on the east end of the county, and how to meet those upcoming needs.

The engineers looked at a two-year projection and a five-year projection and ultimately will forecast water needs for 10 years out, Long told Midway City Council member Monday. Meeting those needs, even for two years out, won’t be easy, according to Long.

“It is going to take a lot of coordination,” he said, “a lot of political coordination and a lot of political cooperation to work.”

Currently, the city can withdraw up to 550,000 gallons per day from groundwater sources. However, beginning in January 2025, that allocation will be cut to 530,000 gallons per day.

While the average usage was a little more than 225,000 gallons per day in 2023, a number of development, both residential and commercial, are expected to push that usage higher. In five years, the projected demand from developments — including a gas and convenience store on the east side of I-95, another such development on the western side, plus potential hotels and a housing development underway on Isle of Wight — the demand could reach 550,000 gallons a day, leaving the city 20,000 gallons a day short on capacity.

Long said he is constantly getting questions about potential hotels and Jones Petroleum has submitted its plans for developing property on Highway 84 near the I-95 interchange.

And in 20 years, the city could be more than 940,000 gallons short on a daily basis of its needed groundwater capacity.

“You could very easily run short of water. I think you’re OK for a five-year period,” Long said. “But as these other things come and you start looking at your 10-year growth, how are we going to get that water? Once you get to 70-80% of your capacity, you need to start looking at other ways to get more water.”

As a “yellow zone” county under the state Environmental Protection Division’s, further groundwater withdrawals from the Floridan aquifer are capped. Hinesville has a pact in place with Long County to drill a well in Long County just across the county line to supply water to the city’s westside. Riceboro has had an agreement with McIntosh County for a well there that supplies 1 million gallons a day.

Riceboro officials sent a letter to Midway asking if there was interest in getting water from Riceboro. Midway has indicated they would be interested. But there are still a number of details to be negotiated.

“Ownership, funding, rates, we still have to work that out,” Long said.

Should Midway and Riceboro go forward with the plans, a trunk line could be installed along Barrington Ferry Road and ultimately, Midway would have a 1 million gallon tank just inside its southern city limits. The Liberty County Development Authority also will need water, perhaps another 2 million gallons per day, in the next five years, the technical committee speculated, and SNF could consume much if not all of Riceboro’s 1 million gallons per day. Long said the city could sink wells into the Miocene layer, but those wells could wind up not producing much water at all, if any.

Midway Mayor Levern Clancy inquired about using grants to provide more water and what fees can be applied to the end users, such as aid in construction fees.

Long suggested sending another letter to Riceboro that doesn’t lock Midway into a contract but shows the EPD what the city’s needs are.

Along with addressing the water needs, more wastewater capacity also has to be obtained, Long pointed out.

“Sewer-wise we’re in just a bad a shape, if not worse, than with water,” he said.

Long said a threepronged approach that includes expanding sprayfields, getting waste load allocations and providing more reuse water is a potential solution. DS Smith, formerly Interstate Paper, uses reuse water — waste water that has been treated to a level where it can come into contact with people safely — and SNF also may have the capacity to use some reuse, Long added. The LCDA has a lot of “purple pipe,” the color of pipe associated with reuse lines, Long said.

“You’ve get to treat it and get it to them,” he said.

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