The City of Valdosta announced today the acquisition of property for a future replacement of the Withlacoochee Water Pollution Control Plant.
The city’s current wastewater treatment plant, located on Wetherington Road, is 30 years old and was severely damaged in the April 2009 flood event. As a result of the flood event, a revised 100-year flood plain analysis now places the plant within the revised flood way. Under both the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regulations and local development codes, the city would not be allowed to make improvements or substantial replacements of new equipment. Even without such regulations, it would not be feasible to make such improvements on property that has the probability of future flooding.
Because the city has miles of transmission lines flowing to this area, along with the fact that two-thirds of the city drains by topography to this area, the future replacement site needs to be in the same area, but on much higher ground. The parcel the city is acquiring is at an elevation approximately 54 feet higher than the current site and is located far outside of any flood plain or floodway. The city currently has a claim pending with FEMA that, if approved, would provide 100 percent federal disaster funding to replace and relocate the plant to higher ground. The city would be required to provide the land for the relocated plant and the purpose of the acquisition is to prepare for such relocation.
If FEMA approves the disaster mitigation funding, the plant will be relocated upon approval and receipt of the funding, followed by design and construction. If FEMA funding is not received, the plant will still be relocated but not immediately due to the costs of such a project.
In the interim, a project with design already underway will proceed on the newly acquired property. This project will include equipment for a new force main to address wastewater overflows in certain low lying areas, along with a 4-million gallon equalization basin for temporary storage of stormwater during major rain events. Both of these projects will address immediate needs for the Utilities Department. A new and relocated plant with between 12 to 20 million gallons of daily (MGD) capacity (current plant has 12 MGD) could cost as much as $60 million. Again, because of the flood and future flood risks, relocation of the plant is inevitable.
The city is purchasing 75 acres of a 525-acre parcel for a price of $1,012,500, utilizing SPLOST VI funds. The property has been recently rezoned and meets all requirements for the location of a wastewater treatment plant.
According to Henry Hicks, Director of Utilities for the city, “acquisition of this property is necessary for the relocation of the city’s largest wastewater treatment plant, which serves two-thirds of the city and a majority of the city’s businesses and residents. The acquisition allows for the most cost effective relocation and will ensure the city meets present demands and regulations, as well as planning for future needs. It is a very strategic and pro-active decision.”
The city continues to pursue the FEMA funding and hopes to have a final resolution on its claim by spring of this year. For further information, contact Hicks at (229) 259-3592.