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Sewer plant almost ready to go online

March 23, 2011
After several years of effort by numerous Georgetown officials, the town is about to unveil its new wastewater treatment plant, a landmark event that many thought would never come to pass.

For many years, Georgetown residents depended on septic tanks for sewage disposal. Eventually, that system was deemed outdated and the town contracted with New Albany to treat its wastewater instead. Solids were still routed to septic tanks but were pumped out periodically and disposed of.

The new wastewater treatment plant in Georgetown has been tested with clean water and, if all goes well, will be tested with wastewater within the next few days. Town officials believe the plant will be in full operation sometime in April. Photo by Lee Cable
But the cost of sending the wastewater to New Albany for treatment was always a sore point for many as sewer bills increased through the years, putting increased pressure on people with fixed incomes and large families.

In 2006, the town purchased a 23-acre site between Georgetown and nearby Edwardsville, known as the O'Brien property, with hopes of building a wastewater treatment plant on the property. But Edwardsville residents formed a group and challenged annexation plans and zoning changes, sending Georgetown officials through several legal hurdles and eventually stopping the construction of the plant.

As friction mounted between Georgetown and New Albany, Georgetown's promise to build its own treatment plant faltered and the town was facing a large fine, payable to New Albany, for not honoring an agreed-upon contract, made years earlier, for Georgetown to build a plant and treat the town's wastewater.

But the town changed plans, sold the O'Brien property to Floyd County and bought another piece of property on the west side of town, behind the Georgetown Truss Co., and began construction of a plant several months ago.

"There's no way we could have found a better place for a wastewater treatment plant," Billy Stewart, president of the Georgetown Town Council, said. "And whether you like or dislike the president's stimulus funds, it furnished us with a $3.5 million forgivable loan toward a new and much-needed treatment plant. The stimulus package did the same for many small towns and communities across the country, and the timing couldn't have been better."

Construction of the plant began last year with hopes of having it online and working sometime this spring. At a regular monthly meeting of the town council on March 14, Bob Woosley of Heritage Engineering announced that the plant was ready for a "wet test," which involves pumping clean water through the facility in order to test the equipment and lines.

"We performed a dry test of the plant last week," Woosley said. "There was no water in the plant at the time. We will now run a wet test, using clean water, to test the other machinery. Once that test has occurred and the control building is ready, we will take some flow through the system to do more tests, and we still have to test the emergency (back-up) generator. I'd say that in the next 30 to 45 days, we can have flow going through the plant. If that goes well, all that is left to do is finish paving the access road to the plant."

Many in Georgetown hope the new plant will reduce sewage rates, and Stewart believes that will be the case.

"Those living outside the town who use our system will probably see their sewer rate stay the same," Stewart said. "But the people who live in Georgetown should see a decrease in their sewage rates after the plant is up and going."

A spokesman for Umbaugh and Associates, who conducted a sewer rate study for the town, agreed with Stewart, saying that a rate reduction of up to 11 percent would be likely for most town residents and, that those whose sewer use is small, a more significant decrease may be possible.

"This would help those who need it the most," Stewart added.

During the March 14 meeting, the council also voted to sell the town's broadband equipment, which has been a thorn in the side of officials since the town invested in the venture almost five years ago.

"A prior council created this mess," Stewart said. "I hate to harp on that, but that's what happened. It cost the town almost a half-million dollars for the system, and it's never worked correctly. It was never set up as a utility, and so it didn't comply with the laws. Now, we have to remove all the transmitters from the houses and take down all the towers. We never made a dime from any of it. All of the equipment is now obsolete, and to keep it would be just throwing good money after bad."

The town put the system up for bids, hoping someone would be interested in buying it, but the announcement brought only two responses: one from a company that wanted to operate the system for the town and one bid from Helix Technologies Inc., a French Lick company.

The responses were opened at the council meeting, and the board promptly rejected the proposal to keep the system in operation with a partner but accepted the $16,500 bid to sell the equipment, including the towers, to Helix Technologies Inc. The company agreed to take down the towers at its own expense and to remove all transmitters from the houses and structures that were on the system.

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