Holly Springs will save nearly $7 million on wastewater treatment upgrades now that state officials say the project need not include more than 2 miles of pipeline.
The state's decision means that the town can expand use of its Utley Creek wastewater treatment plant without having to move the discharge point 2.2 miles downstream.
Upgrades to the plant will ensure that Holly Springs can meet its wastewater treatment needs until 2030 and likely well beyond. However, more treatment capacity isn’t just a long-term necessity. Wastewater flows are approaching the point by which state officials would want an upgrade to be under way.
The upcoming work is expected to cost $9.1 million, although some equipment won’t be needed for years. The cost would have been $16 million with the pipeline. Ultimately, the Utley Creek plant would be capable of treating 8 million gallons of wastewater a day, more than three times the current limit.
Seann Byrd, the town’s Public Utilities director, said continuing to discharge treated wastewater onsite rather than piping it miles downstream from the plant makes sense financially and environmentally.
“We are spending a few hundred thousand dollars instead of $7 million, we are providing the same service to the public, and we are protecting the waterways and woods around us,” he said.
Most of the physical expansion of the Utley Creek plant was completed in 2011 at a cost of $28 million. Construction increased the potential treatment capacity from 2.4 million gallons of wastewater a day to 6 million gallons.
Although the state OK’d more treated wastewater going into Utley Creek, there was a catch. It wanted the discharge point moved from the plant to a lower portion of the creek, almost to where it reaches Harris Lake. For that, the town would have to dynamite and bore through bedrock to install a 48-inch diameter pipeline.
At issue was the effect of additional effluent on aquatic life in upper portions of the creek. The town maintained that the pipeline was an unnecessary expense and that the quality of Utley Creek actually depended on the treated wastewater to maintain adequate flow.
State officials reversed the pipeline requirement after the town’s engineering consultants provided more documentation that discharging additional treated wastewater at the plant rather than downstream would not harm the environment.
Byrd said the efforts equally address cost, use/benefit, and environmental protection.
“This is definitely something the community can feel good about,” he said.