Savanna Street sludge removal project set to finish by December 31

By ANTHONY WARREN,

A major sludge-hauling project at the Savanna Street Wastewater Treatment Plant should be finished by deadline after all.

After telling the Jackson City Council recently that the project would likely continue into early 2018, a deputy city attorney recently told the Sun the project should wrap up by December 31.

The project includes hauling and disposing of tons of sludge that has been collected and stored at the plant.

Jackson has until December 31, 2017 to remove the sludge, or face fines from the U.S. Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“With respect to the Biosolids Disposal project … the contractor is still projecting that they will be finished with the disposal of the sludge … by the end of the year,” said Deputy City Attorney Terry Williamson.

“They may still have work repairing the roads around the plant … next spring to close out the project. However, as long as the sludge is disposed of by the end of the year, the city will be in compliance with the requirement of the consent decree.”

In 2012, Jackson entered into a sewer consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Justice. 

Under the decree, the city has to make hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades and repairs to its sewer system to bring it into compliance with federal law.

Initially, the decree was expected to include around $400 million in expenses, but that amount has increased to an estimated $600 million to $800 million.

A major part of the decree included removing tons of sludge collected at the Savanna plant. Over the years, the sludge had built up in the plant’s storm cells, reducing its capacity to handle flow during peak times.

The city faces daily fines for not completing projects by deadline. However, several factors could be working in the city’s favor.

 

While the project was delayed during the summer because of unusually wet weather, October and November are expected to be relatively dry.

Also, contractors discovered there is far less sludge to remove than the roughly 305,000 tons initially expected, meaning that not only will the city likely meet its deadline, but total hauling costs could be reduced.

The news is positive for the project, which has been plagued by controversy.

In May 2016, the city brought on Partridge-Sibley Industrial Services and GA Transport (PSI-GA) for $13.7 million to haul the waste.

The council approved bringing on the joint venture, fearing that the city would not meet the hauling deadline otherwise.

In 2015, the city twice turned down former Mayor Tony Yarber’s proposal to bring on a joint venture including a firm owned by a political ally.

Worried that the Partridge-Sibley proposal could be turned down, too, Yarber told the council that if it did not approve the contract, the city would begin advertising the project again, further delaying when work would begin.

“The mayor made it abundantly clear that if the council didn’t vote for who the mayor selected, that he would restart the whole (bidding) process from scratch,” Ward Two Councilman Melvin Priester said at the time. “We have a hard, firm deadline and I couldn’t support not getting this work started.”

Among concerns, PSI-GA’s minority participation plan was deemed “non-compliant” by the city’s Equal Business Opportunity (EBO) office, according to previous reports in the Sun.

The city issued a notice to proceed in June 2016, according to the city’s revised semiannual report submitted in August.

The project calls for hauling the waste from the Savanna plant and disposing of it at landfills or at land-application sites.

Land-application includes hauling the waste to an agricultural site, spreading it onto the ground, and turning it into the soil. The materials, in essence, become fertilizer to grow plants that are not used for human consumption.

State environmental regulations prevent contractors from land-applying waste in the rain, because of the potential for contaminated runoff.

Through February, about 48.4 percent of the waste had been removed and disposed of through land-application and landfill disposal, according to the August report.

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FROM PROGRAMS TO VENUES TO FUND-RAISING, TIPPY GARNER GUIDING FORCE OF OPERA

A Jackson native, Tippy Garner has always lived in the north and northeast area of the city.