IN PHOTO (from left): Andy Thibodeau, Layne Heavy Civil; Jeff Lovell, Lovell Engineering Associates; John Waite, Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent; Sandra Tooley City Councilwoman; Vivian Miller-Cody, City Councilwoman; Henry Hicks, Utilities Director; Larry Hanson, Valdosta City Manager; John Gayle, Mayor; Joseph “Sonny” Vickers, City Councilman; City Councilman Ben Norton; Alvin Payton, City Councilman & Mayor Pro Tem; Tim Carroll, City Councilman; Kevin Clark, GEFA; Rick Jeffares, Georgia State Senator District 17; John Machisko, Parsons; and Lucas Cobb, Garney Construction.
Valdosta and Lowndes County voters who passed a continuation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendum in 2013 were publicly credited for the debt-free opening of the City of Valdosta Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) at a ribbon-cutting event on July 12. Over 100 attended the event to tour the public facility that has been built to the highest standards and meets quality service delivery requirements for generations to come.
Although held at the new $23 million WWTP on Wetherington Road, the event also celebrated the completion of the Force Main Project, which includes the construction of a 6.2-mile force main, four new lift stations, a new headworks structure for the new WWTP, and a 6-million-gallon equalization basin—a project funded by more than $37 million in low-interest GEFA loans.
The two projects represent the investment of more than $60 million in the city’s sewer collection system over the past three years, of which all major projects were completed ahead of schedule and within budget.
“This project is a demonstration of how a government can manage through a difficult time to achieve a good outcome,” said City Manager Larry Hanson, who recounted the city’s infrastructure history since the 2009 flood. “The completion of these projects shows that local governments can work in partnership with regulatory agencies such as the Environmental Protection Division (EPD), who are doing their jobs in protecting the environment. It shows that state agencies such as Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) can and are willing to provide financial support to help local governments with long term, low-interest financing. And, it shows that local governments can be innovative with project delivery methods, such as design-build, which was used for the new wastewater treatment plant project to substantially shorten the time frame while improving the overall design, construction and management of the project.”
The WWTP, completed approximately 16 months ahead of schedule, was designed to meet and exceed current needs and future growth. The plant has the capability of treating a wastewater flow of 18 million gallons daily (MGD) and a peak hourly flow of 22 MGD. The 6-million-gallon equalization basin allows for the plant to store excess water received during major rain events and handle peak instantaneous flows of up to 38 MGD—more than double the current capacity. Equipped with state-of-the-art technology, the new facility is treating wastewater in a manner that is safe for the environment, meets current and future regulatory requirements, and is expandable for future growth needs.
“I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished over the last several years and how these projects have already contributed towards our goal of eliminating sewer spills in the future,” said Utilities Director Henry Hicks. “This plant has been built to the highest standards and is, in fact, treating to higher standards not yet adopted by the state of Georgia.”
At the event, city officials acknowledged the past concerns and frustrations of residents and neighboring communities during the recent improvements made to the wastewater collection and treatment system and expressed their continued commitment to be good stewards of the environment.
“Valdosta is fortunate to have a city council with a strong vision and a commitment to vote for issues that are important to our citizens," said Mayor John Gayle. “We remain committed to providing adequate water and wastewater treatment services to our citizens and celebrate the positive impacts that these completed projects have on our sanitary sewer system, the overall quality of services to our citizens and our future growth.”