The City of Georgetown must cut back on the amount of pollution it releases into the Sampit River from its Waste- water Treatment Plant but to do so is going to cost big bucks.
It's a problem that has been going on for years and has cost the city thousands of dollars in fines levied by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. The city was hit with a new penalty of $24,800 this month.
Since 2003, the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) has had the capacity to clean as much as 12 million gallons per day but only treats about four million gallons daily.
After the water is treated it is sent to a 22-acre retention pond where it sits until it can be released into the river. That release can only take place while the tide is falling during the summer months, according to rules established by DHEC.
That, according to Will Cook — head of the WWTP — is when the water gets polluted. DHEC says the city is dis- charging too much of a bacteria called Enterococcus. City officials said that type of pollution is caused by seagulls and alligators that go into the retention pond.
It is bodily waste from the birds and gators that cause the unacceptable increase in Enterococcus.
The most recent violations were noted to have occurred between Jan. 1, 2011 and Sept. 30, 2012, according to a DHEC consent order.
The city now has less than 90 days to submit a revised preliminary engineering report to DHEC detailing what upgrades will be made to solve the pollution problem. Work on the solution must begin within 90 days of that report being issued and be completed within two years.
City officials say making the holding pond smaller would be a permanent solution.
“The excessively large size of the holding pond is a seri- ous detriment to overall plant performance," a memo deliv- ered by Cook to City Council last week states.
He said the holding pond has been that size since the WWTP was built.
“It’s a design flaw,” interim Administrator Carey Smith told council when asked why the pond was so large.
The solution to the problem being suggested is to reduce the size of the pond which would allow more of the water to be released into the river before it has a chance to become polluted after being treated.
Creating a dam system that would make the pond smaller will cost about $1.25 million, Smith said. As part of that cost, the acid feed system would also be modified.
Another, less expensive option, would be to modify the acid feed pumping system to allow an acid injection to the holding pond. That, Smith said, would only be a Band-Aid to the problem.
Council will consider the options and make a decision at its meeting in January.
By Scott Harper
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