FAIRHOPE — Fixing the smells that have raised complaints from residents near the Fairhope sewage treatment plant could cost more than $5 million, officials and engineers said."We've had …
FAIRHOPE — Fixing the smells that have raised complaints from residents near the Fairhope sewage treatment plant could cost more than $5 million, officials and engineers said.
"We've had multiple complaints from residents that live near and on that side of town and even back toward the bay side, we've had several complaints with odor," Jason Langley told city council members at a work session Monday, Jan. 23.
At the meeting, engineers from Garver, a Biloxi company that conducted a study of the plant, said the headworks needed improvements.
The headworks is the part of the system where untreated sewage arrives at the plant, Lindsay Tucker, Garver local project manager, said.
"It really acts as a first line of defense for the rest of your plant," she said. "This stage of the process removes fines, grit, grease and other items ensuring that the wastewater entering the process is consistent. It doesn't contain any trash, solids or other things that could impact your processes downstream."
She said Fairhope does not have an alternative when the headworks break down. "There's only one mechanical fine screen at our wastewater plant now an if that screen were to need a part replacement to be rebuilt, which is common, we would have to reroute all of the flow going through the fine screen into the manual bar screen," Tucker said. "That would involve the staff having to rake the bar screen every two hours or so. So, we're having to staff the plant most of the time around the clock."
Tucker said that when plant emits smells, the location near downtown and residential areas raises complaints.
"Y'all are in a downtown area, next to a shopping area and next to residences," she said. "You're kind of down in a depression, so odor is going to kind of just permeate the area if not handled properly."
Tucker said the study recommends building a new headworks facility next to the existing one with two fine screening channels, a new grit removal system, a new screenings and grit processing building and an advanced odor-control system.
The estimated cost of the improvements is $5.3 million, according to the report.
Tucker said the work would improve the plant.
"Fairhope has invested a lot of money and project allocation into upgrading the collection system, rerouting pump stations, upsizing mains," Tucker said. "What this can mean, though, is that flow can get to the plant in a much more rapid way, and it will depend, of course, on the actual flow, but we're seeing that flow could be increasing to the headworks over time, not only from rerouting and changing flow stations, but just from growth in general. As we add developments and communities, we're adding more flow and if that's all going to this plant then we have to take that into account as we look to the future and future capacity."
Wes Cardwell of Garver said the new headworks would not only reduce odors but would improve conditions at the plant and area.
"The air is hazardous," Cardwell said. "That air contains constituents that can lead to corrosion. Hydrogen sulfide is a very hazardous workplace environment that we don't want our staff to be around. We have to pull that air out and we have to pass it through an actual treatment system."
He said the proposed work would add to the improvements made at the plant.
"Now we recognize that Fairhope made an investment with the existing headworks," Cardwell said, "and that equipment that you have in place could absolutely be relocated and put into these channels that way it maximizes your investment that you've already made."