091620_MNS_Big_Creek Big Creek Water Reclamation Facility rendering

An artist’s rendering shows what the expanded Big Creek Water Reclamation Facility will look like once completed.

Construction has begun on Fulton County’s $312 million Big Creek Water Reclamation Facility expansion in Roswell, the largest single capital expansion project in the county’s history.

Construction started Aug. 31 and is expected to last 46 months, with the facility opening in 2024. The expansion is a partnership between Fulton and two companies – Archer Western and Brown and Caldwell – developing the expansion.

At its July 8 meeting, the Fulton Board of Commissioners approved the project’s progressive design/build services totaling $274.8 million for the two companies, with the contract being contingent upon the successful issuance of bonds to cover its work.

According to the Big Creek expansion website, the facility was built starting in 1969, when it was designed with a treatment capacity of 0.75 million gallons per day (MGD). Since then it’s been upgraded and/or expanded several times, with the most recent major project taking place in 1991, when its capacity was increased to its current permitted amount of 24 MGD.

The planned expansion will up its capacity to 38 MGD so it can better serve its 70-square-mile service area that includes Roswell, Alpharetta, parts of Milton and areas of Cobb and DeKalb counties. Brown and Caldwell spokesman Cameron McWilliam said the facility also impacts parts of Johns Creek.

The Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District has predicted more population growth and economic development in the area, so the increased capacity will be needed to keep pace.

“This is the formation of four years of work to increase the treatment capacity from 20 million gallons a day to 32 million gallons a day but also to improve the treatment process. … It will also place less stress on the wastewater process,” David Clark, Fulton’s public works director, said of the expansion at the board’s July 8 meeting.

According to a news release, the project will include coarse screening and grit removal, primary clarification, biological nutrient removal, flat plate membrane filtration, offline equalization tanks, aerobic digesters, new electrical and instrumentation infrastructure and ultraviolet and post-aeration of effluent.

The upgraded and expanded facility will reduce light, noise and odor from leaving it and will provide significant quality-of-life improvements to the surrounding neighborhood. The new treatment process, incorporating state-of-the-art membrane technology, will produce significantly cleaner water than the existing plant.

Despite the increased flow capacity, discharges to the river will be reduced by up to 50% from current permit limits. Construction crews will also tear down and repurpose several older or underused sections of the facility. They will recycle existing site materials, eliminating up to 10,000 truckloads of landfill disposal.

District 2 Fulton Commissioner Bob Ellis, whose district includes the facility, said the expansion is sorely needed.

“It’s really a critical project,” he said “… There has been some history going back several years. In 2014 we were not in compliance with Georgia EPD (Environmental Protection Division) for a variety of reasons, and we were approaching a point where we needed to begin to plan for expanded capacity for wastewater treatment. So for a number of different things, we wanted to get back into compliance with the state and consider and act on those things. …

“We addressed all those issues and began acting on projects specifically in the north Fulton area where we were out of capacity. There was a smaller project with the Little River, and it should be wrapping up in the fall some time. This was certainly the larger one because it provides the greatest amount of wastewater treatment capacity for the north Fulton footprint.”

Of the project’s cost, Ellis said, “It’s a substantive price tag, but the combination of the smaller project and this particular project will address puncture points where we’ll run out of capacity with Fulton County as a whole. It gets us capacity for the next 25 years at a minimum but more likely 30 years. It’s a long-term project. In addition to the expansion, there was some modernization with the plant as well.”

With the Big Creek project handling most of north Fulton’s water treatment issues, he said the county is also conducting some studies on the south Fulton footprint with wastewater needs. So that part of Fulton may get facility upgrades in the future.

For more information on the project, visit bigcreekexpansion.com.

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