Waldo's plan to resolve sewer problems still needs approval

The proposed pipeline would run through an unincorporated area of Alachua County.

Published: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 10:04 p.m.

The town of Waldo's plan to end its sewer problems and get out from under a Department of Environmental Protection consent order - the construction of a pipeline to hook up to Gainesville Regional Utilities' system - has some county commissioners concerned about urban sprawl.

Tuesday, the County Commission, with Commissioner Rodney Long absent, appeared headed to a 2-2 deadlock on the pipeline and delayed a scheduled vote until Jan. 26.

Because the proposed pipeline along Waldo Road would run through unincorporated Alachua County and outside designated urban boundaries, it needs the approval of the County Commission. Tuesday, Commissioners Mike Byerly and Paula DeLaney voiced concerns of potential sprawl, while Commissioners Lee Pinkoson and Cynthia Chestnut were ready to approve the town's plan.

"My experience has been once the infrastructure is in place" development plans follow, DeLaney said.

Byerly said he did not want another Newberry Road corridor that would go against local planning policies by spurring development outside municipalities. He pushed for Waldo to instead construct a new wastewater plant in town.

Timothy Norman, a consulting engineer with the city, said the construction costs for a new wastewater plant that meets DEP requirements and accommodates future growth within Waldo is in the range of $8 million.

The pipeline to hook to the GRU system has estimated construction costs in the range of $4.7 million to $5 million.

Norman said the town's utility customers would feel the brunt of the cost difference between the two projects in their bills.

Right now, Waldo plans to secure a mix of loan and grant monies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program to fund the construction.

Waldo Town Manager Kim Worley said the proposed sewer line would accommodate 200,000 gallons of flow per day - twice the capacity of the town's antiquated plant - and allow the town of approximately 1,000 residents to double its population through future development.

Worley said that since Waldo had its own plans to grow, town officials would not be amenable to developments outside the town limits tying into the line.

Worley said the County Commission's current delay to Jan. 26 is not a problem, but future delays could cause the town problems with DEP.

The town has been under a DEP consent order since December 2006 because nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia discharges from its wastewater treatment plant, which is also close to its 100,000-gallon-per-day capacity, were all above permitted levels.

The violations came after the Suwannee River Water Management District put in place more strict total maximum daily load limits for pollutants discharged into the Santa Fe River, Worley said

Worley said the town's initial intent was to use a series of constructed percolation ponds for additional treatment of the effluent discharged from the plant before it flowed through swamp land and, eventually, into the Santa Fe River. But the ponds did not work as designed, she said.

Contact Christopher Curry at 374-5088 or chris.curry@gvillesun.com.

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