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City workshop to focus on stormwater, planning group

Richmond Hill’s inclusion in CORE MPO could slow down some infrastructure work, says mayor

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POSTED: March 19, 2014 12:57 p.m.

When the Richmond Hill City Council met Tuesday night, members were expected to approve a $22.37 million bid from Bates Engineering to build the town’s new wastewater treatment facility.
The council won’t get much of a break as it will be right back at City Hall at 4 p.m. today for a workshop on two topics: stormwater runoff and the city’s mandated placement in the Coastal Region Metropolitan Planning Organization.
The meeting is expected to last about two hours and is open to the public.
The city’s mandated membership in what is abbreviated as CORE MPO is not something Richmond Hill Mayor Harold Fowler is thrilled about.
“I’m not really crazy about it, but it is what it is,” he said Tuesday. “We don’t have any choice in the matter.”
Fowler’s concerns are with the make up the committee, which gets to work this spring and summer and is dominated by Chatham County.
“I think someone from Effingham might also be on the thing, but basically I’m the only one in Bryan County who sits on this committee,” he said. “How much clout am I going to have against Chatham County? That’s my primary concern.”
Richmond Hill was placed in the CORE MPO because its population at the last census mandated it be included in order to receive federal funding for road improvements.
That could be problematic, Fowler said.
“Anything with federal money involved could be impacted — and even the widening of 144 has federal money involved,” he said. “Say we want to do something on 17, we’d have to go through the MPO.”
Addressing runoff is also an issue made necessary by the growing population of the city, which has stressed its water and sewer infrastructure in recent years.
“What it’ll probably boil down to is we’ll have to come up with a stormwater authority and go from there with it,” Fowler said, noting the state Environmental Protection Division has given the city until mid-September to come up with a way to address the issue of runoff and pollutants.
That deadline is part of a number of enforcement actions taken by the EPD against Richmond Hill in recent years due to problems the city has had with its current wastewater treatment plant.
The city is permitted to treat about 1.5 million gallons a day and is averaging about 1.4 million gallons a day at its Sterling Creek facility, Fowler said, giving little room to treat runoff.
There have been discussions in recent months at council meetings about the amount of stormwater infiltrating the city’s wastewater treatment plant, and Fowler said Tuesday the city recently treated about a million gallons of water it didn’t intend to.
Braddy Enterprises, the city’s new public works provider, is working to fix the problem, Fowler said, and discovered three manholes in a ditch off Longview Drive that were causing problems during heavy rains.
“Since then, they’ve gone in and built up those manholes to a higher level and that took care of part of the problem,” he said, noting the Georgia Rural Water Association will fund smoke tests later this year to help find areas where runoff water is getting into the city’s sewer system.
The idea of a stormwater authority is to stop pollutants from entering into rivers and streams, Fowler said.
“Where does your stormwater go when it comes off the parking lot in front of your business?” he asked. “It’s not necessarily going into the wastewater treatment plant, but it’s going to eventually wind up in a stream or a river. We need to account for where’s it going and what we’re doing with it.”

 

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