Prepping for a Successful Treatment Plant Expansion

Prepping for a Successful Treatment Plant Expansion

Ryan Boadie (left), assistant manager of wastewater treatment operations and Adam Sylvester, wastewater treatment operator for the Macon Water Authorities Lower Poplar Wastewater Reclamation facility. (Photo by Matt Odom)

Industrial growth in the past decade has put the Macon Water Authority (MWA) in Georgia on the precipice of a major expansion of its wastewater treatment plants, currently sitting at about 80% capacity.

But the utility also only recently completed a $51 million rehab of its current treatment facilities.

“People might say, why did you spend over $50 million and not address expansion? The reason is the plants had been ignored for so long that we had to first get to a baseline of reliability and just clean them up, knowing that a lot work still needs to be done in the future,” says Ray Shell, MWA’s assistant executive director.

Another benefit of this approach, Shell says, is that when it comes time for an expansion, MWA will be well prepared and have both design-build and traditional design-bid-build processes as viable options.

“If we went to the traditional design-bid-build model to immediately do an expansion, we would end up with a contract that had over 100 change-orders,” Shell says. “There were so many unknowns and uncertainty about how the plants operated. Drawings weren’t accurate. Records weren’t accurate. What we achieved with the rehab is we kept detailed records of everything we found along the way. Anytime something was uncovered, we took photos, measured, located accurately so it could be in GIS. Everything new we put in was added to an asset registry database. All instruction manuals. Photos of everything. Everything can be accessed electronically in the database.”

That careful documentation of all assets means MWA has flexibility in how it approaches its inevitable wastewater treatment expansion. It can go design-build and have a contractor handle the project as a single piece, or it can go design-bid-build and keep the design and construction processes largely separate.

“When we do our expansion, we can consider both approaches and have a good chance of success with either one,” Shell says. “It’s nice to have that option.”

You can read more about the Macon Water Authority in the April 2022 issue of Municipal Sewer & Water magazine.


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