Award-Winning Performance

Peachtree City cuts out FOG problems and gets a clear view of its collections system.
Award-Winning Performance
The Peachtree City Water and Sewerage Authority team includes, from left, Johnny Postell, equipment operator; Xavier Davis, GIS specialist/FOG program Coordinator; Eugene Tucker, senior maintenance technician; Keisha Thorpe, technical services division manager; Ernest Ross, Charles Cooper and Timothy Puckett, senior maintenance technicians; and Stephen Hogan, general manager.

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The Peachtree City Water and Sewerage Authority in Peachtree City, Ga., is a relatively small utility with only 30 employees, but it is taking on some pretty big projects.

There is a full survey of the whole collections system — all 181.62 miles of pipe. The authority also just completed its 36th lift station in September and its FOG (Fats, Oils & Grease) Program is receiving state awards.

“We are such a small outfit here, it requires everyone to do their job and kind of do multiple jobs and I think that is what makes us unique,” says Keisha Thorpe, technical services division manager with PCWASA.

The authority is governed by a board of five members who are responsible for ensuring that PCWASA is financially sound and that the authority is moving forward with system improvements and enhancing sewer service in the Peachtree City area.

“We only manage the wastewater within Peachtree City limits, so our name is kind of a misnomer with water and sewer in there because that would indicate that we do manage the water system, but we don’t,” Thorpe says. “The water system is actually managed by the Fayette County Water System.”

The Peachtree City community is also unique, according to Thorpe. It is a planned community and a golf-cart community. “We have many miles of cart paths and if you come down and visit us one day, there are golf carts everywhere.”

The authority celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2011, but up until 1997 had been operated by Georgia Utilities, a private company.

“The authority purchased the assets of the system from Georgia Utilities for about $34 million. They utilized bonds to purchase it,” says Stephen Hogan, general manager of PCWASA. “From that point we took over operations, day-to-day operations, management and so forth of the entire system.”

A working FOG program

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has noted in studies that the most common cause of sanitary sewer overflows is “grease from restaurants, homes and industrial sources.” The EPA’s estimate is that 47 percent of all SSOs are caused by grease.

Because of that, the PCWASA began a FOG program in 1997 that has only grown stronger over the last several years under the leadership of program coordinator Xavier Davis.

“I’d say in the past 10 years we have really developed our program,” Davis says. “Doing grease trap inspections, making sure that our generators are in compliance with the PCWASA ordinance for proper grease trap installation and accurate FOG inspections.”

Davis, who joined the authority seven years ago, says PCWASA has approximately 190 FOG generators, which include restaurants, hair salons and pet grooming salons. They also inspect grit/sand interceptors located in the six car wash facilities in their area and have begun inspections on oil-water separators as well.

“If you add up the FOG generators with the grit/sand generators and the oil-water separators and grease interceptors, there are approximately 200 to 205 generators within the PCWASA,” Davis says.

Besides making sure commercial customers are in compliance with the authority’s sewer use ordinance, Davis also works with residential customers in FOG prevention.

“We educate the public basically through our Peachtree City website at www.pcwasa.org,” Davis says. “We also hold several workshops on how to control FOG with the Fayette County school system and local nursing homes and we provide door hangers and brochures.”

The authority also distributes a newsletter twice a year to its customers to educate them on several matters, including FOG.

Because of the work the authority has done with its FOG Program, the Georgia F.O.G. Alliance, in January 2013, presented the PCWASA an Award of Excellence as one of the state’s most outstanding programs.

“I really try to make our program the best that it can be,” Davis says. “Not only to serve our community here in Peachtree City, but also to be a model example of what a FOG program should be, especially with the small wastewater authority that we have.”

Thorpe adds that the PCWASA Board and general manager have been extremely supportive and have helped acquire some of the tools necessary to operate the FOG Program. “We’ve enhanced and upgraded our databases that we keep all of our FOG files in and we plan to get a dedicated vehicle for our FOG program now, a dedicated truck for Xavier so that he can get to customers and inspect them as he needs to.”

There’s still plenty of work to do to eliminate blockages, however, and that next step is better informing the general public and residential customers on what they can do to assist.

“One of the challenges that any FOG program has these days is control of residential FOG. I tend to look at a lot of sewer video and have identified a number of lines throughout our system that do have extreme blockages,” says Thorpe. “We want to extend our public education more to residents. We do have literature going out and we just need to think of some creative ways to reach those customers, such as open house events, videos and pictures of grease clogs, and just continue educating them about the importance of not pouring grease down the drain whenever an opportunity presents itself.”

Assessing pipe conditions

Like many other utilities around the country, Peachtree City has a mix of pipes throughout its system — most of it PVC, but there is also spirolite, truss, vitrified clay pipe and ductile iron.

“We have a variety of pipe here,” Thorpe says. “Our oldest pipe is about 50 or 60 years old.”

Thorpe adds that most of the pipe is in fairly good condition; however the pipe that is not in good condition is pretty bad.

“We do have quite a bit of clay pipe still remaining in our system and clay is a pretty sturdy pipe material. However, if it’s not installed correctly and if there is soil movement, the pipe is not going to last, and we’ve seen some defects throughout our clay pipe.”

PCWASA recently contracted with RedZone Robotics, a wastewater and sewer inspection company out of Pennsylvania, to conduct a review of the authority’s entire collections system.

“We’re proactively seeking out any issue we have with our collection,” Hogan says. “Our major goal is to evaluate the collections system.”

The $1.25 million project is currently in its second phase.

“It’s one of the biggest projects that we’ve undertaken,” Thorpe says. “This was important because when the Authority acquired the system from Georgia Utilities, plans were scarce and the crews would begin to go out and work on pipelines not knowing the types of materials or the condition of them. For budgeting and planning purposes, we really needed to determine the true condition of our system.”

The authority used to have an in-house CCTV crew that would inspect sewer lines, but it wasn’t the most efficient way of getting through the entire system. At the rate they were going, it would have taken five years or more to inspect the entire system, Thorpe says.

After that, the authority instituted an annual cleaning and inspection program with a contractor, but after two years they hadn’t made enough headway.

“RedZone Robotics came in and video inspected our entire system in 15 months and now we’re in Phase II, which is a data review and data acceptance process,” Thorpe says. “Now we have a good sense of our pipe conditions and we can begin to plan effectively on how we would need to repair, replace or rehabilitate our pipes. Hopefully we’ll be finished with that phase by next spring.”

Planning for growth

In a sign of growth coming to the Peachtree City community, the PCWASA’s 36th lift station went online in September, after 120 days of work to build it.

“It was a partnership between two developers and PCWASA here,” Hogan says. “What we were able to do was put a $500,000 project in place to service an assisted living facility, an upcoming 90-home subdivision and the city’s recreational facilities.”

The existing customers that were in that area were on septic tanks in low areas and were having issues with those tanks.

“This project finishes out, as we know it, the southern part of the city that allows for future development in unoccupied areas now,” Hogan said.

Another project that has kept Thorpe busy the last several months has been an upgrade to the authority’s SCADA system, which was designed and built by Universal Controls Inc. “We upgraded to the latest and greatest SCADA software, changed all of our computers over to Windows 7 and instituted new SCADA radios.”

Hogan knows there are still challenges ahead — rate changes and restructuring due to a struggling economy and aging equipment.

“The economic downturn has been one of the biggest challenges and will continue to be going forward. As we find issues with our pipes, our plants are aging as well,” Hogan said. “One plant is over 25 years old, so the machinery in the plant is reaching design life and we’ll have to address those issues as they come along.”

Hogan says he’s proud of his small staff of 25 full-time and five part-time employees.

“The staff here makes my job easy,” he says. “They take on the challenges, they identify the issues and look for different ways up, down, left, right and sideways to solve the issues. I like the attitudes of the employees here and the ability to do things outside the norm.”



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