Construction under way on reclaimed water line to serve biomass plant

Construction continues on the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center Thursday, February 7, 2013.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, March 1, 2013 at 3:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 1, 2013 at 3:49 p.m.

Construction crews were out along a residential stretch of Northwest 126th Avenue in Alachua this week as work began on the installation of a reclaimed water line to the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center biomass power plant.

On the south side of the roadway — across the street from a line of homes — heavy equipment excavated earth. With traffic limited to one lane along some of the roadway, a flagman stood in the street directing motorists.

The biomass plant is expected to use 1.4 million gallons of water a day. The pipeline now under construction will supply 400,000 to 600,000 gallons of treated wastewater from the city of Alachua’s plant to meet part of that demand.

The balance will be pumped from the ground.

The use of reclaimed water was a requirement put in place in 2010 as the plant was going through the state permitting process.

The state also required that Gainesville Regional Utilities give up 1.4 million gallons per day of its permitted groundwater withdrawal allotment for the Deerhaven coal plant to the biomass plant.

That lowered the permitted daily withdrawals for Deerhaven from 6.5 million gallons per day to 5.1 million.

Deerhaven’s actual average daily usage was 1.74 million gallons in 2011, the most recent year for which numbers were available.

GRU has funded the design and construction of the pipeline, at a cost of approximately $1 million. The city of Alachua supervised the design and now the construction and will own and maintain the pipeline. GREC will pay Alachua for the reclaimed water.

The rate GREC will pay for reclaimed water has not yet been determined, said Adam Boukari, assistant city manager of Alachua.

The pipeline will cut across U.S. 441 and run along County Road 25A, across a narrow street from the Oaks of Hague neighborhood.

Lynn Coullias, an area resident, has raised a series of objections to the location of the pipeline and the fact that its construction has moved ahead while her neighborhood is without fire hydrants. She has questioned why the pipeline was not instead run from the Turkey Creek Golf & Country Club, which had reclaimed water for irrigation of its courses.

Coullias has also said there was insufficient notice to area residents of the plans for the pipeline.

Boukari said the route selected offered “the closest point of connection” to get to the biomass plant. The 2010 agreement between Alachua, Gainesville and the biomass company required that Alachua select the “lowest cost alternative” as the pipeline route.

Responding to concerns and objections over the pipeline in a Thursday email to Gainesville city commissioners, Alachua Public Works Director Mike New said the issue was discussed at several public meetings of the Alachua City Commission since 2010.

He described the construction as “minimally disruptive to residents in Hague” and said work would not last long on the residential stretch of Northwest 126th Avenue.

“One lane of traffic will be closed for a period of less than one week while the pipeline is being installed,” New wrote.

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