Calera provides update on sewer treatment project

Calera officials will have six years to phase in stricter water quality standards at one of its wastewater treatment plants, city officials announced during a May 19 City Council meeting.

The gradual phase-in will come at no additional cost to Calera for at least the first year, Doug Smedley, director of the city’s sewer and wastewater operations, told the council.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management recently announced it would require Calera’s wastewater treatment facility on Buxahatchee Creek to be capable of generating water with no more than 0.06 parts per million of phosphorous.

The new requirements will be down significantly from the facility’s current limit of 0.57 parts per million. Although city officials originally feared the new limit would be enforced this year, it will submit a six-year plan to ADEM May 20.

The facility is currently capable of achieving limits as low as 0.3 parts per million, but it will require additional equipment to achieve lower levels, Smedley said.

“We can make the initial reduction numbers without any modifications to the facility,” Smedley said.

A new centrifuge at the plant will allow the city to achieve phosphorous levels lower than 0.3 parts per million, and the city already has the money needed to purchase the component, Smedley said.

However, the centrifuge alone will not bring the phosphorous levels low enough to meet the standard ADEM will enact in six years, and Calera likely will be forced to find ways to fund further upgrades at the facility.

“That last part is what we are going to have to figure out funding for,” Smedley said. “We shouldn’t have any additional capital expenditures in next year’s budget.

“Hopefully, we will improve the system for three or four years, and then when we have to renew with ADEM after that, they will say we can stop where we are,” Smedley added. “I’ve seen that happen numerous times before.”

In other business, the council tabled a motion to adopt a dress code for all city departments.

Calera currently has no dress code outlined in detail in the city employee handbook. Passing a citywide dress code would help Calera “create a more professional appearance,” said Mayor Jon Graham.

“People who come here to locate things like a Publix to Calera do come before us and see how we present ourselves,” Graham said. “A dress code is something I feel is important, and is something we should get put in place.”