It has been undeniable that a community needs water to survive and thrive.
What has been debated, though, is how much water is available and needed for Newton County to thrive as the community’s population and industry continues to grow.
That topic was discussed during a water summit hosted by Newton County Tomorrow at The Center for Community Preservation and Planning Thursday.
The meeting brought together a professional panel consisting of Wayne Haynie, a Newton County resident, and member of the Oconee County utilities department and member of the Upper Oconee Water Basin Authority, Mike Hopkins, Director of the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority (NCWSA), David Ashley of WK Dickson community infrastructure consultants, Eric Nease of Engineered Horizons, Marty Boyd of Carter and Sloope consulting engineers and Scott Emmons NCWSA.
The panel discussed with the group of Newton County Tomorrow members, including mayors, board of commission members and others from the community, that Newton County has plenty of water to last well into the future. However to access all the water that is available via permit, improvements are needed at the Cornish Creek and Williams Street treatment plants.
The Cornish Creek plant treats water that is stored in Lake Varner, while Williams Street treats water that is stored in City Pond.
Currently, the Cornish Creek plant has a capacity to produce 18 million gallons of water (MGD) per day. However, the plant is permitted to treat 25 MGD. The Williams Street plant is permitted to treat 4.5 MGD, but needs upgrades and is valuable due to being grandfathered into current EPD regulations of how much water can be withdrawn from City Pond.
“The part to take away today is that the water supply is able to go until 2045,” Nease said. “The needs can be reached for a few more years if there is an upgrade to max capacity.”
Boyd said currently the Cornish Creek plant is collecting about 50 percent of its capacity. To reach that capacity, Hopkins said, Newton County’s water resources department currently has a request for qualifications (RFQ) out to see what exactly the county’s treatment plants need to be upgraded.
The request was put out recently in order to keep Newton County’s water supply capable of handling both growth in population and industry such as Baxalta and future projects at Stanton Springs and the Mega Site.
“We have more than enough water to serve another Baxalta,” Hopkins said. “It’s not a crisis but an urgent need. We have treatment centers that we need to address.”
James Brown, Newton County’s water resources director, has already worked toward addressing that need. A RFQ was put out to see what the scope of work and cost would be for upgrades on the Cornish Creek plant so the county could reach the treatment capacity of 25 MGD.
“The RFQ is two-fold,” Brown said to The News Friday. “First it is to get qualified firms to be our engineer of record. And the second fold is to do a proposal for upgrade and corrective measures as far as redundancy.”
The RFQ was put out in April, and the early deadline for the requests to come back to the county is June 15. Once that request is back the county will have a clearer picture of what needs to be done. It can then evaluate the situation and put out a request for bids to see how much the project would cost.
No matter the cost, Haynie said, the improvements of the treatment facilities will be a better cost solution than options such as building out a reservoir at this point in time.
“The cheapest capacity we can buy is fixing what we have,” Haynie said.