In April, the City of Cartersville received a notification from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Environmental Protection Division (EPD) that its water treatment plant had exceeded limits for total suspended solids (TSS) discharges.
Although the City was just barely over the State requirements — the discharges amounted to 47.3 milligrams per liter, when the cutoff number is 45 milligrams per liter — it was more than enough to prod City of Cartersville Water Department Director Bob Jones into action.
At Thursday evening’s city council meeting, his department asked for — and received — an amount not to exceed $85,000 to pay Synagro South, LLC to perform emergency dredging operations at the water treatment plant’s mud pond.
“Since the water plant has been in operation in the early ‘70s, we have put this sediment that we take out of the water in the first step of treatment in this pump,” Jones said. “So this has been building up the entire time the water plant has been in operation.”
An email from an EPD representative noted that the TSS limit violation would not result in any immediate fines or sanctions.
“The Division acknowledges that the reason for the TSS exceedance was due to weather events and that the water system is now developing a plan to remove the solids in the sludge pond in an effort to return the effluent quality to its normal levels,” EPD Watershed Compliance Program Team Leader Margie DeBerry stated in a notice sent to Jones dated April 24.
With more rainy weather on the calendar, Jones said now is the time to take “preemptive measures” to prevent further EPD violations.
“Synagro has been doing this exact type of work for decades, they’re well-known in the water industry,” Jones said. “They have submitted a proposal that has a mobilization fee and daily rate … we don’t know how productive a day of work is going to be, so what we’re going to do is take this amount of money and learn from this, because in the revenue bond that was passed last year, there is a much larger dredging project in that pot of money.”
According to City documents, the mud pond dredging is a budgeted item in the fiscal year 2019 budget.
“The solids will be moved to the northwestern corner of the pond where there is sufficient depth for storage,” a department summary recommendation reads. “The limited scope of work should alleviate the immediate threat of additional permit violations and buy time until the larger dredge and removal project funded by the 2018 revenue bond can take place.”
The City, however, was financially penalized for two other recent EPD infractions. The agency fined the municipal government $817 for two wastewater pollution control plant violations racked up in February — one tabbed at $401 for exceeding TSS weekly averages and one priced at $416 for exceeding permitted weekly flow averages throughout that month.
“We discharged 1,435 kilograms of solids, we’re permitted for 1,422,” Jones said. “We reported an average flow of 19.5 [million gallons per day] for the entire month and we’re permitted at 18.57. So again, we were close, but we didn’t quite make it.”
The city council also voted unanimously to approve a water department request to pay MR Systems $85,992 to repair the water pollution control plant’s supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system, which Jones said has failed multiple times over the last few weeks.
“It will give us the functionality that we’ve lost, but it will also give us redundancy that will give us some functionality that we don’t have,” Jones said, “and most importantly, it will give us the ability to dovetail with the larger nutrient-removal project, which has a large component of this in it.”