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Sewage plant discharge won't harm river
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Editor, In Mr. Roy Hubbard’s letter to the editor about the Liberty County Development Authority’s water reclamation facility in the Dec. 5 edition of the Coastal Courier, he correctly acknowledged that “the ability of the proposed plant to clean the sewage is certainly a positive element.”
He continued on to state that: “The issue is the injection of treated ‘fresh’ wastewater into a saltwater ecosystem.” Now that we have focused on the primary issue, hopefully everyone will be relieved to know that the LCDA and those writing to the newspaper and DNR share the same concern.
The whole point of the technologically advanced and expensive state-of-the-art water reclamation facility is to minimize the injection of ‘fresh’ wastewater into the river (and withdrawal of ground water) through the utilization of re-use water. The plant may be designed to treat 3,000,000 gallons per day (gpd), but the intent is to keep as much of the ‘fresh’ water as possible away from the river through re-use, not send it to the river.
Acknowledging that not all of the ‘fresh’ water will be used for re-use and some will have to go to the river “while demand increases for re-use water and during rainy seasons,” CH2M Hill conducted a screening level analysis to evaluate the potential for the discharge to impact the hydrology and biota in the river due to potential changes in tidal flows and levels of salinity and dissolved oxygen (DO) using the assumption that all 3,000,000 gallons would go into the river (which won’t happen).  
The results of CH2M Hill’s analysis should reassure anyone that wants to use an objective, scientific method to evaluate the potential concerns shared by all of us:
Tidal flows:  Even at a full 3,000,000 gpd (which assumes zero re-use) the maximum volume of freshwater would change the river flows at the point of discharge by less than two one-hundredths of one percent (.0002)! This full 3,000,000 gpd of discharge (that is never envisioned due to the re-use water) would not even be measurable and would not be enough to have any effect on the speed of flow in the river, the pattern of sedimentation along the river bed, shoaling, tidal flows, or tide levels.
Salinity: A plume model of the maximum discharge (that is never envisioned) shows that under the absolute worst-case conditions during a slack tide, the freshwater discharge would mix to about 95 percent of the ambient salinity level by the time it surfaces less than 35 feet from the point of discharge.
Dissolved oxygen and pH: Based on dilution predicted by the plume model, by the time freshwater from the plant would reach the surface, the DO concentration and pH levels in the plume would be essentially the same as in the surrounding river.
Ecological effects: Potential changes in salinity and DO levels due to any discharge would be small and confined to a small zone adjacent to the discharge where the freshwater plume initially mixes with the river water.  Salinity and DO concentrations of the proposed discharge would not substantially affect water quality or the estuarine inhabitants.  
The current variety of fish and shellfish in the river and nearby estuarine habitats, including oysters, would not be adversely affected by the proposed discharge.  Because dolphins feed mostly on fish, the availability of food sources used by dolphins in the estuarine system also would not be adversely affected. Even after the plant is built, testing will continue and all required test results will be reported to the EPD monthly.
The board members of the LCDA understand expressions of concern about the proposed plant. The board members live, work, and fish here also and have required very cautious and comprehensive analysis by CH2M Hill to be certain that the plant will be as advanced as technologically possible, minimize the introduction of “fresh” water into the river, and be very environmentally friendly.
A public information document that provides the results of CH2M Hill’s analysis is posted on our Web site, Look under “Who We Are” and click on “In the News” on the home page OR click the scrolling message at the bottom of the home page.  Should anyone still have any questions, please feel free to contact our office at 368-3356.

Ronald E. Tolley, CEcD
Chief Executive Officer
Liberty County Development Authority
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