The State of Wastewater Infrastructure in Union County: Current Challenges

June 21, 2024

Wastewater Infrastructure in Union County Current Challenges

Union County is at a crucial juncture with its wastewater infrastructure. Ensuring the effective management of wastewater is vital for supporting ongoing and future development within the county. This piece explores the current challenges in our wastewater systems.

Current Challenges in Wastewater Management

Union County’s wastewater facilities operate under stringent regulations that dictate the quality of water returned to the environment. The process of expanding or upgrading these facilities involves lengthy timelines—typically 8 to 10 years from the initial permitting to the completion of construction of a new facility and around 3 years for the expansion of an existing facility. This slow process highlights the importance of proactive planning in infrastructure management.

Grassy Branch WRF

A particular point of concern is the Grassy Branch WRF, which, initially designed to serve schools, now also supports additional housing developments. This expansion beyond its intended capacity has necessitated an expansion to accommodate the increased flow, demonstrating the challenges of adapting older infrastructure to new demands. As a result, the county is now working under a special order of consent with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to expand this treatment plant appropriately.

DEQ typically becomes involved when a wastewater treatment plant is operating at or near its design capacity or if the capacity utilization rate exceeds 80-90%, which may indicate a capacity shortage or potential for overflows.

Crooked Creek WRF

The Crooked Creek WRF exemplifies significant challenges faced by older wastewater facilities, particularly those that are essentially landlocked, which limits the facility’s ability to expand physically, complicating efforts to increase capacity or update systems to meet growing demands.

Conveyance System Issues

Not only is capacity an issue for wastewater management in Union County, but the conveyance system must also be considered. The wastewater collection system relies on a combination of gravity mains, lift stations, and force mains to transport flow from homes and businesses to the treatment facilities. Areas like the East Fork Interceptor are already nearing capacity, causing backups that prevent efficient flow to treatment plants. This congestion illustrates the critical need for properly sized conveyance corridors to ensure that even if treatment capacity is available, the infrastructure can handle the flow.

Looking Ahead

Understanding these challenges is the first step in addressing them effectively. In our next installment, we will delve into the strategic adjustments and solutions being implemented to overcome these obstacles and ensure sustainable growth for Union County. Stay tuned to learn more about some corrective steps that will help pave the way for a more resilient and efficient wastewater infrastructure.



Editor’s note: This blog is part of an occasional series published by the Chamber to provide information to our members and promote discussion on public policy issues affecting businesses in Union County.  You can find past installments here. Future blogs will focus on infrastructure issues such as broadband, roads, energy and water, workforce issues such as childcare and worker skills and other policy issues such as tax and regulatory policy.

Last modified: June 21, 2024

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