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Newton board OKs construction start, loan increase for water plant upgrade

COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton commissioners have given the go-ahead to construction of millions of dollars’ worth of upgrades to the county’s main water treatment plant.

They also approved an 8% increase in a loan that county water system officials say they need to get started.

Commissioners on Tuesday, Sept. 15, approved a request from the county’s Water Resources department to begin construction on a $32 million upgrade of the Cornish Creek water treatment plant at Lake Varner.

Crowder Construction Co. and a total of 19 subcontractors will do the work, according to documents provided to commissioners.

Construction is scheduled to begin in October with completion set for early 2023, according to a schedule submitted to state officials.

The project will include a new floating dock pump station and water line for drawing up to 35 million gallons of raw water per day from Lake Varner.

It also is set to add three new high-service pumps for treated water; and improvements to the bulk chemical storage area, plant electrical system and backup generator.

Relocation of the operator control room and plant laboratory, among other improvements, also are included, according to documents. 

The plant currently treats an average of 13.5 million gallons. The improvements will allow the facility to produce up to 25 million gallons of treated water “on a continuous basis,” county Water Resources director James Brown told commissioners.

It will also be designed to allow expansion to produce 35 million gallons a day, according to the documents.

The project follows improvements made in a first phase to the water system’s Alcovy River pump station, said county spokesman Bryan Fazio.

The next phase will include improvements to the system’s Williams Street water treatment plant in downtown Covington, he said.

Commissioners also approved increasing a loan a state agency approved in 2018 for the Newton County water system improvements.

Increase in the loan is 8% — from $23.2 million to $25.8 million, Brown said.

The additional funds will go for engineering design costs, as well as cleaning of sludge lagoons needed before construction could begin, Fazio said.

The loan is from federal funds managed by the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority and is being repaid with money generated by current water rates, according to documents.

The Newton County Water System is a wholesale provider of water treated at the Cornish Creek and Williams Street plants.

Its customers include the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority; the cities of Covington, Mansfield, Newborn, Oxford and Porterdale; and the Alcovy Shores Water Authority, Jasper County Water and Sewer Authority, and Walton County Board of Commissioners, according to information from the water system.