Development Rates Prompt Questions About Long-Term Sewer Capacity

Aerial photo of Walnut Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant (HCWA photo)
(HCWA photo)

Development rates within Henry County are causing the county water authority to re-evaluate whether long-term sewer treatment capacity will be needed sooner rather than later. The authority is considering a sewer capacity study to look at the question.

Already under construction is a $181 million dollar plant expansion at Walnut Creek, but the upcoming thousands of new apartments may accelerate the need for other expansions. A record over 1,200 units broke ground in 2022, with potentially twice that number beginning construction this year.

Sewer Capacity Study

HCWA General Manager Tony Carnell shared with the water authority board on Thursday morning his concerns about the rate of new development. He proposed a system-wide sewer capacity so the authority can best prepare. The study would engage a consultant’s services to look at available capacity, future demand and the rate of rezoning approvals.

The rate of new apartments under construction is prompting the study. Whereas a new subdivision takes several years to build out, a new apartment complex moves in most — sometimes all — of its residents in quick order. This creates more demand immediately for sewer service. The increase in four-story apartments within the county also results in more units.

Presently, the water authority operates sewer treatment plants at three locations. Bear Creek Treatment Plant serves the Hampton area. The other facilities, Indian Creek and Walnut Creek, serve the rest of the county.

Walnut Creek Expansion

Right now, the Walnut Creek plant can treat up to 8 million gallons of water per day (MGD). This is already far and above the authority’s largest treatment facility. HCWA approved a plant expansion project in late 2022. The $181 million dollar project will expand the facility to treat 14 MGD. To pay for the plant expansion, the authority borrowed $100 million dollars in low-interest long-term financing from the state. Higher development impact fees are also being considered.

General Manager Carnell expressed to the authority board his concerns that new development is accelerating the need for other expansion projects. This could include expanding Indian Creek plant in Locust Grove, and another expansion at Walnut Creek. Building an entirely new plant near Tussahaw Reservoir is also a possible option. Finally, a 7,000+ unit development proposed near Lovejoy would exceed the current capacity at Bear Creek. A sewer capacity study would help identify when the authority needs to complete expansion projects.

With the Walnut Creek expansion already costing $181 million — three times what the authority first expected — one can only wonder what future projects may cost. Costs would only compound if multiple expansions had to happen concurrently.

Featured image shows Walnut Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Henry County Water Authority photo.

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About Clayton 1477 Articles
Clayton Carte is the founder and owner of MHF News. He founded the site in 2017 to highlight transportation projects. Over time, he began covering other topics like new development so residents can best know what’s happening in our community.