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Baxter sewer line nears completion
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The $14 million, 14-plus mile sewer line that will serve Baxter International’s $1 billion manufacturing campus in Stanton Springs industrial park is on schedule for a Jan. 31 completion and is on budget.

Mike Hopkins, executive director of the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority, said earlier this month that the line was mostly installed, with the last segment being the one crossing the Alcovy River. Testing on the line should be completed in January, he said.

The project consisted of 10,000 linear feet of gravity sewer pipe within the industrial park, and four wastewater lift stations and 79,000 linear feet of force main pipe to tie into Covington’s wastewater system. It has taken up much of the authority’s efforts for the past year, Hopkins said.

"This is the largest project the authority has done, as far as one with an aggressive time schedule. It’s been pretty massive," he said.

The authority had to break the new sewer line into six separate projects, with six separate contractors handling construction. Stantec, an international engineering company, handled most of the design, but Hopkins said he had two engineers and two inspectors who worked steadily on the project.

One thing that helped the process go more smoothly was the use of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe, which can be welded together into single pipes several hundred feet long, as opposed to traditional pipe, which generally comes in 20-foot segments. The project contractors were able to avoid tearing up as much land, because they were able to thread longer segments of pipe into the ground and actually pull them through from the other side.

The line was also able to avoid the fairly recently-completed expansion of the U.S. Highway 278 and Ga. Highway 142 North/Covington Bypass Road intersection, instead going behind Eastside High School and Patrick’s Feed and Seed to tie into the Covington system.

Though the massive project was spurred by Baxter’s arrival, Hopkins said the line will serve all of Stanton Springs industrial park, including the $14 million Georgia BioScience Training Center.

"A lot of things kicked off when Baxter came in, but we were allowed to do some forward thinking and put infrastructure in place in Stanton Springs so when other companies come in, (work) won’t be so critical and we won’t have to run big, massive projects," Hopkins said.

While the line travels all along U.S. Highway 278, subdivisions and other users off the highway probably won’t benefit from it. Hopkins said force-main sewer lines — and the entire project outside of Stanton Springs is force main — can only be tapped into at lift stations, and only one of the lift stations is in Newton County Water and Sewerage’s sewer service area.

Unlike water, which is provided over much of the county, sewer service is much more restricted, and many houses outside of cities have their own septic tanks for solid waste.

Entities, whether cities or an authority, can only provide sewer service to designated service areas that have been agreed upon previously. Even if the authority could serve more of the area along U.S. 278, Hopkins said it’s extremely expensive to go back and retrofit a subdivision with sewer lines.

"Normally, sewer is one of the first things to go into a new subdivision," he said.