By Joel Hall
Clayton County has taken a major step to ensure its wastewater independence Tuesday with the dedication of a $55 million renovation of its Northeast Water Reclamation Facility in Rex.
County water authority general manager, Mike Thomas, said the facility is now the county's most advanced plant, and the only one capable of treating water to a level in which it can be safely discharged directly into local rivers. He said the added modifications allow the plant to recapture and treat an additional four million gallons of water a day, giving the plant a 10-million-gallon capacity.
"We're recapturing and reclaiming this water for future use, because we don't have the privilege of Lake Lanier or the Chattahoochee [River]," said Thomas. "We need to capture every drop of water possible."
Thomas said the plant is a major investment in the infrastructure of Clayton County, one which he said will support development, and eventually decrease Clayton County's dependence on other counties for it's water treatment needs.
"On the wastewater treatment side, this was like the last big piece," Thomas contined. The northeast part of the county, "is so close to downtown Atlanta, that it's a great place to develop. [The facility] will provide enough sewer capacity to support growth for the next 20 years."
Currently, many homeowners in Rex and Ellenwood depend on septic tanks, while others have their sewer water treated in DeKalb County, through an agreement with Clayton County.
The Clayton County Water Authority (CCWA) dedicated its newly-remodeled facility on Tuesday morning, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Several Clayton County elected officials, business leaders, and engineers involved in the design, celebrated the facility, which had undergone renovations between August 2005 and March 2008.
"Building it within the existing footprint of the plant was one of the biggest challenges," said Chris Cranmer, a construction manager with CH2M Hill. However, "the water authority had the foresight to build the infrastructure before the development."
"Without the plant, we wouldn't have the capacity to grow and we'd be putting septic tanks in," said plant manager Bruce Wilson. "The county looks at septic tanks as a negative consumer because it takes water out of the environment, but doesn't put it back in. If we bring it down here, we can put it back into the environment for our use."
Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell said the plant marks "another exciting chapter in Clayton County.
"By adding this facility, it will help us attract additional high-level industry to our county," he said. "This only serves to advance our economic potential in the county."