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Expansion planned at wastewater plant

Staff Writer

The City of Troy is anticipating for future growth in Pike County while complying with water quality permit guidelines in its plan to expand the Walnut Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Plans to expand the plant were underway before an Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) order required the city to look into its discharged wastewater quality, said Troy Mayor Jimmy C. Lunsford.

But discovering toxins in the effluent, or wastewater discharged from the treatment plant into Walnut Creek, has caused the city to push forward with its plans.

The city is working with ADEM to identify the pollutant that is causing tests of the effluent to indicate toxicity. Routine tests of the treated wastewater discharged from the Walnut Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant first showed unacceptable levels of toxins in September of 1997.

Subsequent tests also showed the water quality to be impaired.

These test results meant the city had failed to operate its plant under the guidelines for water quality set in its National Discharge Elimination System permit, Lunsford said.

"When we hear about failed water toxicity tests, the general public may be quick to assume something is dangerous to their health and welfare, but there is no danger here to any humans or animals," he said.

The city is being guided by an ADEM consent order in its work to bring the treatment plant under compliance.

A larger treatment plant would give the city the infrastructure it needs to support more businesses and industries here, said James G. Glowers, the city’s general manager. This is the solution the city has come up with for its problem of toxicity in its discharged wastewater or effluent.

Although identifying the cause of the toxicity has been difficult, fixing the problem may be as simple as moving the wastewater treatment plant’s discharge point farther downstream.

City officials plan to move the effluent to a larger stream of water called Whitewater Creek.

Walnut Creek flows to Whitewater Creek so actually just moving discharge point downstream, Flowers said.

The current situation of using Walnut Creek as its outflow point limits the city’s potential growth because it can only handle a certain amount of water. Four million gallons of effluent a day are discharged into Walnut Creek, he said.

As the amount of effluent increases in proportion to the amount of creek water, the concentration of toxins will increase. But if the effluent is pumped into a larger stream, the toxins will be diluted. This will allow the city to pass its water quality tests, Flowers said.

Not only does the city plan to move its discharge point downstream – it is also looking at expanding its wastewater treatment plant.

Flowers said the city would like to expand the plant to pump seven million gallons a day.

The city hopes to pay for the expansion with a $1.2 million grant it has applied for with the Economic Development Administration. Bonds would also be used to finance the project, which would cost an estimated $8 million, Lunsford said.

This would not be the first time the plant was expanded. The Walnut Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant was built in 1969 and is well-designed, Lunsford said. Its original capacity was 3.2 million gallons of water per day. In 1993 to 1994 it was upgraded to five million gallons a day, Flowers said.