City Council Awards $32 Million Contract to Resolve Wastewater Issues

At the April 24 Valdosta City Council meeting, the Mayor and City Council approved the award of a $32,344,000 construction contract that is expected to resolve the overwhelming majority of the sanitary sewer overflows in flood-prone areas of the city during heavy rain events. City leaders approved this contract, which will be funded by a low-interest Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) loan. Construction on this project is expected to start at the beginning of June 2014 and take approximately 18 months to complete.

Since 2009, regional reoccurring flooding problems along the Withlacoochee River have resulted in major inflow and infiltration issues for the City of Valdosta's sanitary sewer collection system—which has been a major contributor to sewer spills. The epicenter of local events have primarily been associated with river inflow and infiltration along the city's 54-inch gravity sewer main which transports wastewater from sewer customers to the city's Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).

The contract awarded includes the construction of a 6.2-mile force main that will replace the existing 54-inch gravity sewer main that runs alongside the Withlacoochee River, a new series of new pump stations, a new headworks structure and a 6-million gallon flow equalization basin to be located at the future site of a new WWTP. This project will also provide the first groundwork for the relocation of a new wastewater treatment plant at the same location.

In conjunction with the award of this contract the city is anxiously awaiting receipt of Design Build Proposals on April 29, 2014 for construction of the new treatment facility anticipated to be completed well before the August 2017 EPD deadline and is expected to cost approximately $20 million. The WWTP—which was not in a flood zone when originally built—was severely flooded and damaged during the 2009 flood event. The assessed level of damage to the WWTP was actually a key factor in obtaining the federal disaster declaration by the President, a declaration that provided federal assistance to flood victims. The city immediately sought FEMA's assistance and applied for funding for improvements to the collection system and for the relocation of the plant. While the city awaited FEMA's approval for funding, any major improvements to the plant or other projects related to the claim would jeopardize possible FEMA funding for those projects. In anticipation of FEMA's funding, the city proactively acquired 75 acres of land to relocate the plant to property outside the 500-year flood plain and at an elevation approximately 60 feet higher than the existing plant site. After nearly three years of navigating FEMA's claims and appeal process, the city was denied funding on August 1, 2012, for the relocation of the plant and construction of a new force main project, which would have significantly eliminated most sewer overflows. The following week, the city awarded a contract to design the Force Main project. While design has been ongoing, the city has acquired the needed right of way for construction of the project. With the Force Main bid now awarded, the city will now review proposals and select the best proposal for Design/Build for the relocation of the WWTP. This could be awarded as early as the June 5 City Council meeting.

In addition to this project, the Utilities Department also has underway a multi-year smoke testing program, to smoke test the entire 300-mile sewer system over the next four years. This program is utilizing smoke tests to find-and-fix leaking sewers which will help resolve storm water inflow and infiltration into the sewer system that contribute to sewer overflows in the low lying areas of the city.

Finally, the Utilities Department has also advertised for bids on two other critical projects. One is the Phase 2 Lift Station Rehabilitation/Replacement Project, which will upgrade four existing older stations as part of that multi-year program. The other is Phase 3 of the Sewer Manhole Rehabilitation/Replacement project, also a multiyear program that upgrades deteriorated manhole within the sewer collection system. Phase 3 will complete rehabilitation or replacement of 37 manholes.

Plans are in the works for another multiyear program to begin rehabilitation of the entire sanitary sewer system using pipe and manhole lining technology. This will eliminate the remaining sources of inflow and infiltration into the sewer system. This program will start on the largest diameter pipe lines and work back into the sewer systems smaller main. A funding plan for this effort is being evaluated.

"The city leadership is committed to providing adequate water and wastewater treatment services to its citizens, maintaining a functioning sewer collection system and discharging treated water in an environmentally responsible manner," said Mayor John Gayle. "City officials have worked diligently to protect the interests of Valdosta citizens and are prepared to move forward with the Force Main project, the Withlacoochee Plant relocation and improvements to the sewer collection system."

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