Two Henry County sewer lagoons soon will be decommissioned, saving the county money in the long term and also providing environmental benefits.
According to Dale Wagoner, deputy Henry County administrator and assistant general manager of the county Public Service Authority (PSA), the PSA operates three sewer lagoons: Greenbriar, Carver and Piedmont. A new project will lay a sewer pipe from the Greenbriar lagoon to the Carver lagoon, which then will connect to an existing sewer line in Fieldale. The wastewater then will continue on to Martinsville’s sewer plant on Wind Dancer Lane.
Once the new sewer line has been completed, Wagoner said, the Greenbriar and Carver lagoons will be rendered environmentally safe, leveled and seeded with grass.
The total cost of the project will be $1.8 million, Wagoner said. The PSA has been approved for a 20-year no-interest loan for $1,773,200 from the state Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund Program to help cover the cost.
PSA Director of Regulatory Compliance and Technical Application Michael Ward and Treatment Division Wastewater Supervisor Kelly Custer said decommissioning the lagoons will break even cost-wise in the short term and save the county money in the long term.
“DEQ in general is pushing toward having these older sewer lagoons discontinued,” Ward said. “The push has been that way for years. ... Taking these lagoons offline not only eliminates a couple of discharges to the creek, but it also removes some higher risk of leakage through the ground. We’ll periodically have odor complaints in the area (now). These are one to three acres of open sewer treatment lagoon, and there are housing communities near them. Sometimes it does smell.”
Wastewater enters the unlined, open-air lagoons untreated, Custer said. Bacteria in the lagoons helps clean the wastewater, which then is filtered through a series of holding ponds until it is clean enough to be channeled into a nearby creek.
“Long term, it is a savings” to decommission the lagoons, Custer said, because increasingly stringent environmental protocols are being instituted to regulate their use.
“If we still had those lagoons online five years from now,” Ward said, “we might have to spend $300,000 or $400,000 to have nutrient removal.”
The lagoons likely were created in the 1960s or 1970s, Custer said.
“These lagoons came under the purview of the PSA many years ago when landowners or developers were not maintaining them in an environmentally appropriate manner,” Wagoner said. “So the PSA took them over to improve the management of those lagoons at the urging of the DEQ. ... They’re so hard to manage, because they are open-air lagoons. If we get a bunch of rain one month, then we’re not only treating the sewage, we’re treating the rainwater.”
“One big issue recently at the Carver lagoon is algae growth,” Ward said. “An algae bloom can cause huge fluctuations in pH, and there’s just no way really for us to control that. ... These sewage lagoon systems have been around for ages, and they’re just old technology. They’re hard to operate. They’re simple, but we have limited control.”
Custer added that PSA employees have to visit the lagoons daily when they’re actively discharging treated water. Not having to send staff to the sites during those times also will save the county money, he said.
Ward said an added benefit of the project is that it will provide easier sewer access should the county choose to extend a sewer line along U.S. 58 West toward Blue Ridge Regional Airport.
“It’s a step towards economic development whenever you can have public water and sewer somewhere,” he said.
The project will go out to bid in December, Ward said, and should be completed in fall 2015.