LAKE ASBURY – Clay County will soon be home to an advanced wastewater treatment facility that, when complete, will treat up to 3 million gallons of wastewater per day for the center of the county and help meet the needs of future expected growth from the First Coast Expressway.
Located off Sandridge Road near Ronnie Van Zant Park, and aptly called the Mid-Clay Wastewater Treatment Facility, Clay County Utility Authority officials said the first phase of the $18.5 million project is about 80 percent complete. When phase one goes online, or in CCUA terms, is commissioned, the facility will treat 600,000 gallons of wastewater per day. Phase one of the facility can handle another 2,900 homes, which would bring the total gallons of wastewater treated per day to 1.5 million.
“The Mid-Clay is located in the heart of the county,” Johnston said. “This is an area along the corridor of the expressway that we are planning for growth. We knew in mothballing the old plant that we were going to need an advanced treatment plant here. We had been looking at growth rates and when there was an uptick in the number of service availability requests for developments in the area, that’s when we decided to pull the trigger on moving forward with the plant.”
CCUA is in the process of selecting an engineer for the second phase but had no cost estimate for that portion of the project. Design is expected to begin in 2019 with construction targeted for early 2020. This 80-acre treatment plant will sit on what used to be the home of a secondary wastewater treatment facility.
The secondary wastewater treatment plant that previously sat on the plot of land treated wastewater to an extent, but CCUA Chief Operations Officer Jeremy Johnston, said the new facility will do significantly more to clean the wastewater.
“We use a biological treatment process that moves from aeration bays, to clarifiers and then there’s added filtration and chlorination at the end of the process, which makes sure that all of the microbes are essentially gone,” Johnston said. “It has a far lower level of nitrogen, phosphorus and other constituents in the wastewater.”
Once the wastewater goes through this cleaning process, it is used for irrigation, not drinking wastewater.
Beyond the need for greater flow rates in the area, Johnston said CCUA also looked at nutrient levels of other plants. Because the growth is currently tied to CCUA’s Ridaught facility, that plant was bumping up against its regulatory thresholds. Johnston said it’s necessary to have this new advanced wastewater treatment plant to alleviate flows at the Ridaught plant while also meeting regulatory requirements. The expansion will also result in increased in reserved capacity at both Ridaught and Mid-Clay, as well as help prolong the life of the Ridaught plant.
This new advanced wastewater treatment facility won’t just be beneficial to the Mid-Clay area – it will benefit the greater Clay County community as well.
“When it comes to the greater community, having the utility capacity there to provide both pot-able water and wastewater treatment is very important because you cannot support the homes and businesses in Clay County if you don’t have that infrastructure there,” Johnston said.
This facility will help some 2,000 area homeowners move off of septic tanks and get on the CCUA system. Removing septic tanks from the community lessens the risk of unnecessary nitrogen getting into waterways and causing such problems as algae bloom.
“A centralized treatment facility provides you with the capability to treat a lot more wastewater with a higher standard,” Johnston said. “When you think about 2,000 septic tanks, that would be 2,000 homes that this area would normally have septic tanks there, you won’t need the septic tanks for a centralized facility. So, you’re getting a higher level of treatment, which allows you to have a higher density of population so that helps those residential communities.”
Johnston said when phase one of the construction is complete, up to 6,000 homes can be serviced by the facility. When phase two is complete, 12,000 homes could receive irrigation wastewater from this new plant. While utility rates will change, Johnston said the changes will be minimal. Even after these changes, Clay County will still see some of the lowest utility rates in this region of Florida.