Warner Robins breaks ground on wastewater plant expansion

chwright@macon.comDecember 5, 2012 

WARNER ROBINS -- An expansion of Warner Robins’ biggest wastewater treatment plant is now under way after a groundbreaking Wednesday.

The $27.5 million expansion of Sandy Run Wastewater Treatment Plant started with the need to upgrade the cleanliness of the output water, according to officials. With a few adjustments, it was more cost effective to also expand the capacity of the plant.

“To live and progress and to move forward, we have to expand our wastewater treatment plant,” said Mayor Chuck Shaheen, calling utilities “the lifeline” of the city.

Engineers were given a $28 million ceiling for the project, said Constantine Engineering project manager Josh Peter­sen. Council approved a $28.5 million bond for the project in December 2011.

“It would have been easy to spend $60 (million), $70 million,” said Joe Downy, of Constantine Engineering. “The city wanted to spend less.”

By reusing existing structures at the plant, costs were reduced, he said. On a tour of the facility Wednesday, Petersen explained how each existing structure will be upgraded, with some being converted to be used in a different part of the process. “The only new structures will be the clarifiers and the filters,” Petersen said. The clarifiers remove any leftover solids after treatment, and the filters take out anything bigger than a grain of sand.

The three-year project includes new headworks, where solids like toilet tissue are removed; expanded aeration, where microscopic particles are removed; a new control system, which can be accessed online; a new sludge pump; new turbo blowers that will turn on and off as needed; and a new administrative building.

Downy said the plant needed upgrades to meet new state requirements for the final treated product, which ends up in the Ocmulgee River. With a few adjustments to those upgrades, designers were able to incorporate an increase to capacity at the same time.

The plant currently has the capacity to process an average of nine million gallons per day. According to city utilities engineer Marianne Golmitz, the plant currently processes an average of six million gallons per day.

After the expansion, the plant will be able to process an average 12 million gallons per day, according to Golmitz.

Petersen said treatment won’t be interrupted throughout the renovations. Some will be diverted to the city’s second plant, the Ocmulgee Treatment Plant, which Golmitz said has a capacity of three million gallons per day. Redundancies at the plants will allow some of the Sandy Run plant to be taken off-line.

“Something like this takes teamwork,” said Scott Todd, of Constantine Engineering. “The contractor has to work with the operator to make it work.”

Downy and Petersen said the improvements will make the plant more energy efficient, as well. The facility was built in the early 1980s and has only had minimal upgrades since, Petersen said.

The Haskell Company will begin the upgrades as soon as the city issues one final permit, Golmitz said.

Shaheen said the upgrades will allow for future growth for not just the city’s population but its budget. Anyone whose sewage is treated must pay a fee to Warner Robins.

“The city of Warner Robins provides sewer not only for the citizens of Warner Robins,” Shaheen said. “We also serve Centerville, Byron, Bonaire, Houston and Peach counties.”

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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