County addresses leachate issue with “good faith”

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – A wet well at the county’s landfill is in danger of leaking leachate into the nearby stream risking contamination of the surface water and possible fines from Georgia’s EPD (Environmental Protection Department).

A presentation at the county’s work session from Carter & Sloope Engineers’ representative Kurt McCord explained plans to address the issue with major renovations and replacements.

McCord said the county is facing three issues at the site. An emergency repair was made to the force main pipe being used, but the repair is not a lasting answer. The pipe burst earlier last month leaking the leachate into the soil. Leachate, by definition, is water that has percolated through a solid and leached out some of the constituents. In this situation, that water has soaked through trash at the landfill before it gets collected and pumped out to a holding tank for treatment later. McCord explained that the piping on the site uses two pipes, an inner 6-inch pipe, and an outer 10-inch pipe.

The second issue McCord pointed out is that the pump is older and not ideal for the operation where it is being used now. He explained that it is not operating at optimal efficiency, about 35 or 40 percent. The resolution he offered would run optimally at 75 percent efficiency, drastically reducing power consumption as well as systemic failures.

The third issue is the wet well’s location. Being so close to the stream means that there is very little response time before a leak or pump failure would affect the ecosystem through the nearby stream. Gilmer County Public Works Director Jim Smith told the board that the “repairs that were done, they were very expensive, and they are just band-aids.”

Kurt McCord, of Carter & Sloope Engineers, presents options for repair and replace of the wet well.

The project of replacing parts and moving the well would total about $650,000 with $350,000 for construction and $300,000 for the pump overhaul according to McCord. There are other options however as McCord explained the county could try to replace the force main equally with similar material and location, replace it with PVC Pipe, or reusing the outer 10-inch pipe for chances to save some costs.

The county has already budgeted $240,000 in this year’s budget. Additionally, there is a chance for the county to seek funding from GEFA (Georgia Environmental Finance Authority) through principal forgiveness on a loan that the county would immediately pay off to avoid debt. The cost is also relieved slightly by Carter & Sloope not charging the county for the inspection and information provided at the county meeting. This is the same company the completed the ‘Jail Sewer Project’ last year and another project before that for the county.

Looking at a project over double what the county has budgeted, Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris asked about the possibility of completing the repair project as two projects. Paris suggested they would move the lift station and renew or replace it first, then come back to repair the force main pipe.

However, Gilmer County Attorney David Clark pointed out that the item was not advertised for action in  this months meeting. McCord said he hasn’t billed the county for preliminary work and is happy to move along and “get the ball rolling” in “good faith.” Post Commissioner Dallas Miller said he would feel better with the item on a regular meeting due to the amount of money involved. The county ultimately agreed to put the item on August’s Agenda and to move forward now under this “good faith” gesture.

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