An expensive project is on the horizon for Alexander City.
City officials have learned ‘unofficially’ the Coley Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant will not be permitted by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). It leaves the city with only one option — spend money it doesn’t have.
“We have found out unofficially we are not going to be permitted,” Alexander City wastewater superintendent Lynn Miller told Alexander City Councilmembers at a work session. “Officially we will get notice in about 90 days and will have five years to have a solution in place. We are looking at roughly $30 million to correct this.”
For the last few years Alexander City has been going through the process of working with ADEM to re-permit the Coley Creek facility that treats wastewater from a large portion of the east side of town from the Hillabee area.
The city must create a pumping station at Coley Creek to send the sewage up to U.S. Highway 280.
“It will have to come to Sugar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant,” Miller said.
Unlike sewer projects to Wicker Point and the Kellyton Industrial Park, new revenue is limited until development occurs along the new sewer line.
”When we run this, we won’t get any more revenue because those customers are already on sewer,” Mayor Woody Baird said.
The project would help solve sewage issues and help with potential growth near River Hill and create an opportunity for U.S. Highway 280 from River Hill to Highway 63 to be developed because of the new access to wastewater treatment.
The potential price tag is steep at an estimated $30 million. Baird said even though the city doesn’t have the official word yet on the repermitting of Coley Creek it has been seeking funding for the project to redirect the wastewater to Sugar Creek.
“We started talking about this about [five weeks] ago,” Baird said. “We have 90 days to be proactive before the clock starts ticking when we get the official notification. We have started that ball rolling trying to get earmarked funding. We have contacted [U.S. Congressman] Mike Rogers, the Senators, anybody who will listen to us. We have written letters too.”
Baird said the idea of pumping wastewater from Coley Creek to Sugar Creek was being discussed prior to the unofficial knowledge of the repermitting issue.
“Even if we got permits, we were talking about trying to get earmarked money to do this,” Baird said. “If we can get earmarked money from the federal government, we wouldn’t have to borrow that money.”
The best situation for the city would be to wait for the free money to come from the federal government. With a five year timeline to have a solution in place, the city may have to look for other funding sources.
The city could look to state revolving fund loans from ADEM. It is a funding source the city is currently using on two different large wastewater projects for the Kellyton Industrial Park and Wicker Point. But those projects will create new revenue according to city officials.
“Unless we get a lot of new customers, this won’t produce enough revenue to pay for it,” Baird said. “We won’t have an option without the permit, we will have to do it.”