Permit OK’d for Westside expansion

Dec. 12, 2012 @ 05:29 PM

After months of delays, Davidson County has given High Point the green light to expand the Westside Wastewater Treatment Plant.
The Davidson County Board of Commissioners recently approved an order granting High Point a special-use permit to expand the plant from its current sewage treatment capacity of 6.2 million gallons per day to 8.2 mgd. City officials say they must expand Westside to meet state guidelines for sewage treatment capability. They submitted an application for the expansion to the board in January 2012.
High Point had to get the approval because the plant is located in a portion of Davidson County that is not in the city limits.
“We certainly hoped to be under construction by now, but as far as the capacity of the plant, we’re in good shape,” said High Point Public Services Director Chris Thompson. “This whole deal is when you’re planning for a 20-to-30-year window, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
City officials must next get authorization from the state to proceed with the expansion. Thompson said he hopes construction of the $28 million project can begin within the next six months.
Commissioners held three public hearings on the project over the course of four months and heard from many county residents who oppose the expansion. The order notes some of their concerns, which include possible increased odor associated with the plant, fear of annexation by the city, further pollution of Rich Fork Creek (into which the plant discharges) and High Point’s failure to articulate a clear need for the expansion.
The plant currently treats an average of 4.14 mgd, which is about 67 percent of its capacity.
The order states that there has been “historical failure” by the city to “recognize, address and resolve the legitimate concerns of Davidson County and its citizens about substandard operations at WWTP that have negatively impacted public health, safety and general welfare.”
The city wants the expansion to be able to accommodate an eventual treatment capacity upgrade to 10 mgd, but the order imposes a 8.2 mgd limit. An additional expansion to 10 mgd would first have to be approved by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the order notes.
“Really, the bottom line is, Davidson County did everything it could do for the city of High Point pursuant to law,” said County Attorney Chuck Frye.
The city has agreed to address water quality impact issues on Rich Fork Creek to enable an expansion to 10 mgd, but officials produced no evidence that they have acquired the permits to do this, the order states.
County consideration of an expansion to 10 mgd is “contingent upon DENR certification that the expansion will not have a detrimental effect on Rich Fork Creek and the surrounding land area,” as well as completion of proposed restoration projects addressing flooding and pollution of the creek.
City officials said they are still seeking the 10 mgd capacity.
“To me, that’s a call for DENR and not Davidson County, but that doesn’t matter. I’m just delighted at this point to have a special-use permit,” Thompson said.