Archived Story

Water and wastewater treatment plentiful in the Lake Martin area

Published 6:26pm Friday, April 1, 2011

The Sugar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant is the largest in the Lake Martin area with the capacity to serve any industrial need.

The facility was built in the late 1960s and has had five different upgrades, according to Alexander City wastewater superintendent Shelby Richardson.  Its largest upgrade came in the form of a $14 million renovation in the early 1990s.

Richardson said the plant has a design capacity for 8.5 million gallons of wastewater and a peak capacity of 20 million.

“It was designed for the textile industry,” Richardson said of the plant. “Because of that it can handle anything you throw at it.”

The facility is currently handling about 1.5 million gallons of wastewater. Richardson said, a far cry from what it can handle.

“In our heyday we’d run about 6 million gallons when Russell was at full capacity,” Richardson said.  “This plant currently has a capacity of 6.5 to 7 million available. It’s basically like you’ve got a whole wastewater plant available.”

“We have excess capacity and we’re looking for clean and environmentally friendly industries that can use that excess capacity, ” said Don McClellan, executive director of the Lake Martin Area Economic Development Alliance.

At Sugar Creek, wastewater is pumped into a giant tank of about 14 million gallons for aeration. The tank is so large in fact, a polyurethane curtain was added to cut the area of it in half to better serve the minimum amount of daily waste, Richardson said.

“Plant is at minimum capacity right now, but we can move the curtain and expand capacity,” Richardson said. “We can go back to maximum capacity by removing the polyurethane curtain.”

Aeration uses “biological processes” in the form of bacteria, or bugs to clean the water before it is sent to clarifiers.

“Aeration is the heart of the process,” Richardson said. “That’s how you get the stuff out of the water.”

A special polymer was added to the clarifiers to better serve the textile industry, Richardson said. The dye remaining in the water that bacteria can’t pick up sticks to the solids and is taken out at this stage. Sugar Creek was one of the first facilities in the state to switch to a color-removal technique.

The water is then chlorinated to kill the bacteria and then de-chlorinated before it is pumped 6miles to the Piney Woods area of the Tallapoosa River.

The facility was specifically designed to handle textile waste, or basically dye water, Richardson said. The plant still handles a little bit of water from the textile industry, but also handles anything from restaurant and small industry waste to car wash soaps containing phosphates.

The solid waste left over from the process was, at one time, dumped in a landfill off of Coven Abbett Road, which caused a runoff problem. The plant was one of the first to switch to a biosolids program. The program basically uses the solid waste, or sludge from the wastewater process as fertilizer on local cattle pastures, Richardson said.

“You’re actually recycling it instead of burying it in the ground,” Richardson said. “You’re using it.”
Richardson said the sludge is inspected for any metals before it is used in the biosolids program and the Alabama Department of Environment Management has to approve everywhere the solids are spread.

Testing is also an important part of the process, Richardson said. The water leaving the facility is tested daily before it is pumped.

“The primary job is to contain and resolve a problem before it leaves the plant,” Richardson said.

Water & Wastewater

Adams Water Treatment Plant
24 MGD Capacity
Average usage: 9-10 MGD
Excess Capacity: 14-15 MGD

Sugar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant
8.5 MGD Capacity
Average Usage: 1-2 MGD
Excess Capacity: 6.5-7.5 MGD

Coley Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant
1.9 MGD Capacity
Average Usage: 8-900,000 GD
Excess Capacity: 1 MGD

MGD = Million Gallons per Day