WASA dedicates treatment facility

COVINGTON - The Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority dedicated its new Yellow River Water Reclamation Facility on Friday.

The authority held an open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the $12.5 million facility, which is located on the same site as the current plant, just south of Porterdale on the banks of the Yellow River.

It will eventually replace the current plant, built in 1971.

"The original plant went into operation more than 35 years ago and is near the end of its useful life," WASA Executive Director Mike Hopkins said. "It requires intense operations and maintenance, and as technology has advanced in the industry, the processes at the plant have become outdated and inefficient. While it suited Newton County's needs when it was originally built, the community has changed and needs a wastewater management system that not only keeps up but prepares for future needs. Additionally, stricter state and federal regulations require higher levels of treatment."

The facility will provide greater treatment capacity, at up to 3.2 million gallons per day, and is automated and more efficient to operate, which will help the authority to maintain and possibly reduce operating costs, Hopkins said.

The effluent - the water at the end of the treatment process - will also be of higher quality, he said.

Also, more of the processes at the facility are enclosed, resulting in odor reduction, he said.

"It is almost like comparing the enormous 1950's computers with punch cards to today's home computers," Hopkins said of the difference between the new facility and the current one. "The advances in technology between the existing and new facility bring the treatment process into the 21st century. The old facility simply provides pretreatment for the wastewater coming in, which is the most basic level of treatment in use. The new facility uses a more advanced level of treatment known as sequence batch reactor. This process leaves room for future expansion."

One expansion is already being designed and is expected to come online in 2010, bringing the plant to a capacity of 4.4 million gallons per day, Hopkins said.

That expansion will further improve effluent quality, which will allow the effluent to be returned to a water source, Hopkins said.

Currently, the effluent is sprayed onto the fields at the Land Application Facility owned by the authority and the city of Covington.

"Because the (facility) is on the river, it's more cost effective for the authority to build a 100-yard pipeline for the discharge than to pump the effluent through a 2-mile pipeline to its land application site," Hopkins said. "This is also better for the environment. The effluent is of a higher quality and the water is being returned to the river and staying within the watershed, something that's particularly important in times of drought."

The current treatment facility will remain in service until the new facility is expanded in 2010, Hopkins said. Wastewater coming into the site will be split between the two facilities, with the greater amount going to the new facility.

The facility was funded through rates and user fees and developed as part of the authority's Capital Improvements Program, developed in conjunction with Newton County's Master Plan.

A treatment facility is still planned for the eastern part of the county and is expected to be online in five years, Hopkins said.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.