The state has scheduled a public hearing to discuss plans for a sewage treatment plant in east Liberty County.
The Environmental Protection Division scheduled the Jan. 27 public hearing after receiving 223 letters and 85 signatures on a petition expressing discontent.
The EPD is considering whether to issue a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to the Liberty County Development Authority, which wants to build the plant in Tradeport East.
A draft permit has been released, and the public was invited to submit written comment to the EPD in October.
Commotion from local residents and surrounding counties has increased because of concern for how the allowable discharge to the Laurel View River in the Ogeechee River Basin may affect estuaries and the overall ecosystem. Up to 3 million gallons per day may be discharged.
Allen Davis, of the Coastal Estuary Protection Association, spoke to the LCDA during its monthly meeting Monday.
Authority member Al Williams wanted Davis to bring up a couple of concerns he heard during a community-organized breakfast meeting Nov. 15 in Sunbury.
Davis said he thought this was an unprecedented permit, and he questioned if the impact was analogous to a water dropper or a fire hose into a bucket.
“All I know is that (LCDA) has asked for a 3 million gallon per day wastewater discharge permit, and folks believe this may have an impact on the ecology in the area,” Davis said.
Williams is concerned the public has not put the plant’s discharge amount into perspective.
“People think that this (the LCDA plant) is just a huge kaboom,” Williams said. “What I want to discuss specifically is the concern of a 3 million gallon max, which is way down the road. Savannah is already dumping 20 million gallons a day from their system.”
Davis pointed out that the discharge from Savannah’s system goes to a free-flowing freshwater river, while the discharge from the local plant would go to a tidal basin.
“(The discharge) is basically shifting in and out every six hours, with the tide, and no real flow of freshwater coming,” Davis said. “In fact, if you look at a map you can see how it’s isolated.”
Dave Stanley of Colorado-based CH2M Hill, the project’s lead contractor, said the plant would initially only discharge 800,000 gallons a day.
“And that’s only if we don’t have anyplace to use the water,” Stanley said. “Our intent is to use every drop of it.”
He explained the water could be reused for irrigation and firefighting, conserving water from an aquifer.
Wayne Murphy, also with CH2M Hill, said during the winter and during other heavy rain periods, the facility will need to discharge to the river if the on-site storage is exceeded.
He said that should not be confused with the illegal combined sewer system, where sanitary and storm drains use the same pipe, and raw sewage is disposed to the river.
“When we plan for new wastewater facilities, you plan for an increase in groundwater pipes due to wet weather, an additional inflow of freshwater into your sewer system, and size your wastewater plant to handle that,” Murphy said.
He explained an NPEDS permit is for point-source discharge and more pollutants come from stormwater runoff, which is not permitted, than a “highly treated, advanced wastewater treatment plant.”
“If anybody was really, honestly concerned about the freshwater estuaries in east Liberty County, they would be demanding Liberty County enact a stormwater utility,” Murphy said.
Williams emphasized his support for community concern “because we have a responsibility to the taxpayer.”
“It’s very easy for us to say, ‘Don’t worry, we’re handling this’,” Williams said.
The EPD public meeting is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 27 at the Midway Civic Center; the public hearing will start at 8 p.m.
In other LDCA business Monday, it approved a request from Liberty Regional Medical Center CEO Scott Kroell for land in Tradeport East to build a clinic and fire station and relocate EMS Station 2.