WASA expansion beyond PTC borders is wrong

Dennis Chase's picture

The recent proposal by WASA to acquire authority to extend service outside Peachtree City is not appropriate.

Several years ago, WASA applied for a permit to expand their sewage treatment system. The request was for a substantial increase in the amount of sewage they expected to treat. A part of the requirement to make the requested changes included an analysis of what the impact of the expansion would have on the environment and on the social and economic conditions within their stated service area.

When this came up for public comment, I was among those who challenged parts of the WASA proposal for not including important impact areas. It was my position that the analysis should extend beyond the city limits, especially the areas downstream along Line Creek.

In correspondence and in numerous meetings with WASA staff, they were emphatic that their permit was to the city limits and nothing beyond. The WASA permit application, including the final impact analysis report and in public and private meetings that stated again and again that they served ONLY Peachtree City and would never go beyond that line.

I questioned the need for such a significant increase in the volume of treated sewage. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that the need had been derived to provide exactly what Peachtree City needed.

The plan was to serve the new West side expansion, an extension of lines into those segments of Peachtree City that do not have sewer lines and to meet the need for the industrial area as it expanded to full use.

Once the permit was issued, it didn’t take long for WASA to break their commitment. The promise to serve those areas of the city on septic systems has vanished, been forgotten or ignored. The many issues with the West side development weren’t quite what had been expected and the industrial area has not developed quite as fast as WASA hoped.

A Citizen newspaper article about the proposed sewer extension (Sept. 16, 2012) made an interesting statement: “In the case of Senoia, it backfired because the city ultimately built a new sewer treatment plant that gave it far more capacity than the proposed agreement with WASA.” The implication of this statement being that not connecting Senoia to the WASA system was a mistake. However, there is nothing to substantiate such an idea.

When the City Council considered whether to allow the expansion into Coweta County, I was among the people objecting. During a council meeting, I made it clear that once the city allowed such a move, they were selling off a large part of their available excess capacity and WASA would have a very difficult time with a further expansion when needed.

Perhaps there were thoughts by a few people to control development in Coweta County as Mr. Harman stated. But the overriding issue for the Peachtree City Council was to ensure that their citizens could be served first, a point Mr. Harman conveniently forgot to mention. When it became obvious that WASA was not living up to their commitments, the Council voted down the Senoia request.

WASA would have a difficult time expanding again because disposing of sewage effluent has become impossible where Line Creek is concerned. That stream is already at or beyond the assimilation capacity for treated sewage. If the excess capacity is sold off, WASA’s only option to expand capacity would be a more expensive land application system.

We are hearing a lot of misinformation about what happened in the past. They want you to forget about their promises to serve all of the city, the city that established WASA in the first place.

They are trying to convince us that because they messed up the capacity issue, they should be able to take the authority on to themselves to go outside the city.

In my opinion, they have lied from the beginning. They were not straight about the need for such a large treatment facility. They have been less than honest about the impact of their sewage releases.

WASA believes they can ignore the conditions of their permit. They are saying they are not going to provide promised service to the citizens of Peachtree City. And they are, in a sense, saying they don’t really owe their existence to the city of Peachtree City.

What is being proposed might even be considered illegal, though I have no idea who would press the point in court. Their permit is for Peachtree City, to the city limits, and nothing beyond.

In my opinion, bad decisions should not be followed by more bad decisions.

[Dennis Chase, now retired, was a fish and wildlife biologist with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 26 years. Since retiring, he has worked as a consultant for Fayette County on environmental concerns, is a volunteer with the Line Creek Association of Fayette County, and has published numerous newspaper columns.]