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Pricey fix for wastewater plant
700 tons of waste has to be removed
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More than $400,000 is expected to be spent to contain what City Manager Mike Melton called an "emergency situation" at the city of Richmond Hill’s wastewater treatment plant near Sterling Creek.

Melton briefed city council members on the details Tuesday night and they granted approval for the expenditure.

He said waste was beginning to back up in the center’s aerated lagoon, resulting in high levels of ammonia being detected in the city’s wastewater.

Melton compared it to a septic tank that had reached capacity.

Council granted an estimated $424,700 be paid to the lowest bidder, Bionomic Services, to remove the waste. Melton said the money will be taken from the water and sewer fund.

Public Works Supervisor David Buchanan said this will solve the immediate capacity problem, but that renovations needed to be made to the plant in order to keep the pace with growth.

Melton said approximately 700 tons of waste need to be removed, which has accumulated over the last 11 years.

He said he knew the time to remove was waste was to come, but was escalated to an emergency removal upon discovery that it was impacting ammonia levels.

Last year, the EPD detected high ammonia levels at the plant and prepared to impose a $25,000 fine for the city having more ammonia content in the water than the permit allows.

Citing heavy rain as a potential cause, the city reached a negotiated plea for $10,000, with no violation to go on record.

Melton says there is no clear indicator whether last year’s "100-year storm" or the excess waste is the cause, but, either way, the waste needs to be removed. He also said the city will look at disposing waste on a five-year cycle from now on.

Melton said the EPD has restrictions on ammonia levels due to the potential of ammonia being discharged into streams.

In another water issue, Melton got the nod from council to further negotiations with the EPD in compliance with a recent mandate from the EPD that looks to cut back on the amount of water that can be withdrawn by coastal Georgia.

That includes taking away 350,000 gallons per day from Richmond Hill, from the upper floridan aquifer beginning Jan. 1.

The EPD is imposing the cutbacks because of saltwater intrusion to the upper floridan aquifer as more water is extracted.

Melton said, in return for more upper water, the EPD said they will allow the city to withdraw the difference from the lower floridan aquifer.

Melton also said he will try to negotiate permitting for an additional lower floridan well as talks with the EPD continue.

In other business:

- Council approved a resolution to adopt the community agenda portion of the city’s comprehensive land use plan.

Planning and Zoning Director Steve Scholar said this was the final piece to the comp plan, which will now be sent to the Department of Community Affairs for review.

Richmond Hill, as well as other cities and counties, had to devise a state mandated comp plan as a preparedness measure for expected growth.

- Tattoos By Pete was approved to move from its location on Longwood Drive to its new home in the Park South plaza on Hwy. 17.

- Site plans and building elevations were approved for a new office/retail plaza to be built between Live Oaks subdivision and the auto repair place on Hwy. 17.

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