New plant doubles county’s water capacity

A new water treatment plant on the Coosa River should provide the county enough water for decades to come.

Built near Wilsonville, the South Shelby Water Treatment Plant will more than double the county’s water supply.

“This will likely by the largest capital project in our history,” said County Manager Alex Dudchock. “It is very important to our economic growth.”

The new plant can pump 8 million gallons of water a day; however, current demand isn’t that high.

Instead, the plant will provide around 5 million gallons a day during the summer and 2 million gallons a day throughout the other eight months of the year, Dudchock said.

“This is laying the groundwork for providing water to the county for a long time,” said Charles Lay, water services manager.

The news is much different than just a year ago when severe drought brought on voluntary watering restrictions.

“Last year, we did the best we could,” said Lay. “Things are looking better this year.”

Should Shelby County ever find itself in another drought, the plant has the capability to produce 16 millions gallons of water a day by adding other production shift.

While Shelby County provides water to customers in Chelsea, Westover and unincorporated areas, Dudchock said the plant will also make a big difference to wholesale customers.

Shelby County also sells water to many cities, including Alabaster, Pelham and Vincent. The county will add a line to Calera by the end of 2009.

“It gives flexibility to help other departments if the need arises,” said Dudchock. “Our wholesale customers can now blend our water with what they get from their own systems.”

Water enters at an intake station right off the river. It’s then pumped two miles to the treatment plant, off Shelby County 61.

There, water mixes with disinfectants and chemicals and that make particles bond and easier to remove.

After a trip through settling basins and filters, the water is ready for consumption.

A licensed operator oversees the plant at all times and water quality is monitored constantly.

The county spent $88 million on the project, including $43 million for the plant itself. Storage tanks and pipelines made up the difference.

Shelby County borrowed $63 million from the state’s revolving fund, with interest rates that ranged from 3.05 to 3.5 percent.

The balance came from the sale of the county’s sewer plant and water and landfill reserve funds.

The county already jointly operates the Talladega/Shelby Water Treatment Plant near Sylacauga. That plant pumps 13.8 million gallons of water of a day.

Dudchock said Shelby County required a new plant to better serve the growing number of customers below U.S. 280.

“Strategically, we needed to be further down on the Coosa River,” said Dudchock.