When development in the Denver/East Lincoln County area gears up, the sewer capacity will be there to support residential, industrial and commercial ventures because of the new Killian Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility.
The plant is the second treatment facility in the area, joining the Forney Creek plant, which reached capacity in 2007.
The near-complete $20 million project on Old Plank road off N.C. 16 created about 100 jobs for local contractors and sub-contractors and will employ six full-time operators for both facilities.
About $17.5 million of the cost is being funded by a low-interest revolving loan from the state. Forney Creek's operating budget is about $604,000. The new plant's projected operating budget is expected to be similar in cost. It also is expected to lower Forney Creek's budget.
The Forney Creek facility has been upgraded twice over the last 18 years and is permitted to handle about 975,000 gallons per day.
The county began limiting its capacity, however, in 2006, before the plant reached its capacity a year later. After the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued a permit to begin construction of the new plant in 2009, the Forney Creek plant increased its output by 90,000 gallons per day as part of the state permit while the new plant was being built.
After some basic testing, the Killian Creek plant is expected to start treating wastewater by Oct. 1, said Barry McKinnon, senior utility engineer for Lincoln County Public Works. In its first phase, the plant will be able to handle nearly 1.7 million gallons per day. With planned future expansions, that number could grow up to nearly 6 million gallons per day as needed to meet demand and development.
"We can now provide substantial sewer capacity to east Lincoln County as the economy begins to come back," said McKinnon. "Prior to this new plant, we were not able to provide capacity to any commercial, industrial or even residential developments. Even when the economy was going strong, we had to say no."
Before the new plant, a handful of developments, including The Gates at Waterside Crossing, Salem Springs and a few others were waiting for capacity from the county, but most were provided for once the new plant was approved to be built and the Forney Creek plant increased its output.
The new plant should support future growth into most of the next decade, depending on how the economy influences development. The Forney Creek facility will still be used in a limited way, said McKinnon, handling about 200,000-300,000 gallons per day.
"Our existing facility has been a real workhorse for several years and we intend to keep using it," said McKinnon. "But this plant, along with our committed staff, will be able to treat more sewage than before while keeping the lake and its tributaries clean and healthy.
"We project that we might have to look at expanding this plant in five to eight years, but it really depends on how quickly development comes back."
The two years with no capacity did not cause the county to deny any building permits, but it did stall several residential subdivisions, such as The Gates at Waterside Crossing and Salem Springs, said McKinnon. But now the potential for residential, commercial and industrial growth is back for eastern Lincoln County.
"This is a modern, state-of-the-art facility that is more than adequate to keep Killian Creek and the lake clean," said McKinnon. "This sewer plant will provide capacity for responsible growth in that this growth will not allow sewage to pollute and ruin our land and water resources. That is our job here and it is what we will do."