Originally created 08/18/00

OMI touts sewage plant savings



Augusta's sewage still stinks, but not as badly as it used to.

Private contractors hired a year ago to operate the city's troubled Messerly Wastewater Treatment Plant told city commissioners Thursday they have kept the plant compliant - and saved money, too.

"We're doing a better job for less money," said Dan Groselle, regional vice president for Colorado-based OMI, the company hired a year ago to manage Augusta's wastewater program.

Paul Tickerhoof, OMI's Augusta project manager, said his company has operated the plant for a year at a savings of $703,000 compared to what Augusta spent the previous year.

The savings, he said, include $368,000 in operation and maintenance costs and $242,000 in revenues from fines imposed on industries that dumped toxic or regulated materials into the waste stream. Other savings were derived from changes in laboratory services and cost avoidance, he said.

Mayor Bob Young, who joined several commissioners during an anniversary program at the south Richmond County plant, said the changes at the facility were obvious and long overdue.

"This plant today in no way resembles the plant castigated by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division in 1998," Mr. Young said, referring to a string of violations that led to more than $184,000 in fines.

Recent problems included sewage spills and two pending lawsuits claiming sewage sludge used as fertilizer killed cattle. Augusta also was ordered to correct deficiencies ranging from faulty equipment to industries that discharge toxic chemicals.

OMI has spent a great deal of time and money on maintenance programs to keep the plant in line and avoid spills and violations, Mr. Tickerhoof said.

Efforts to prosecute industries that discharge chemicals into the sewerage system have been stepped up in the past year, Mr. Tickerhoof said, and have yielded dozens of fines - and better cooperation from industrial clients.

OMI will celebrate its one-year anniversary with an open house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The public is invited to tour the plant at 1820 Doug Barnard Parkway and enjoy free burgers, hotdogs and other foods.

The plant, built in 1968, has a treatment capacity of 46 million gallons per day, with a 30 million gallon per day average.

Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119, or rpavey@augustachronicle.com.