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Sewer still an issue for Richmond Hill
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The city of Richmond Hill has hit a couple of stumbling blocks in the area of water and sewer. Their request for stimulus money for upgrades was just denied. Also, in accordance with EPD guidelines, a "major spill" was reported last week at the Sterling Creek wastewater treatment plant.

The city requested nearly $1 million in stimulus money to go toward updating and repairing pump stations within the city’s water and sewer system. City Manager Mike Melton said the federal money they were pursuing is no longer available.

But Melton said while there is still a need to upgrade the system, it is not at an emergency level.

He said funding for the upgrade will most likely be addressed next year.

Meanwhile, city officials say the "spill" at the wastewater plant was a planned event as they work toward solving an ongoing environmental dilemma at the plant. The average weekly discharge is 7.5 million gallons. Last week, the plant discharged 10.3 million gallons.

According to Scott Southwick with the EPD, this is the third recent "spill" at the facility, but was expected because the city has cut off some of the plant’s capacity in order to clear out the buildup of decayed matter, such as dead plants, within the connected wetlands.

The plant, which won a 2007 Trendsetter award from the Georgia Municipal Association, has been in and out of compliance with the EPD over raised ammonia levels for about three years now, and city officials are hoping this process will get them back in line. The city conducted a study which blamed decayed matter for the raised levels.

In lieu of a fine and violation for exceeding ammonia levels, the city reached a negotiated settlement of $35,000. They are also currently paying $2,000 a month, which started in May, until they get back into compliance.

"Not all months have been spill levels," Southwick said. He also commended the city for efforts to correct the problem, noting that natural systems can be tricky.

Melton said the city is actually in compliance this week, but Southwick said the fall "has traditionally been the time of year for compliance problems, so I would anticipate that it will continue for a few more months."

The city plans to dredge another section of the plant in the winter. City and EPD officials are both hopeful that will solve the problem.

"Hopefully, come winter, they will have this corrected," Southwick said. "They have demonstrated to me their willingness to do whatever needs to be done to correct this."

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