City addresses EPD bivalve mollusk mandate

Patti Dozier/Times-EnterpriseMark Gatlin addresses city officials Wednesday morning. Ashley Cason (left), city chief financial officer, and Chris White, utilities superintendent, were among city officials attending the city hall meeting.

THOMASVILLE — The City of Thomasville is tasked with removing ammonia from biological waste water treatment facility effluent that could harm rainbow mussels in the Ochlockonee River.

Effluent flows into Qquina Creek, a ditch through which the liquid enters the river.

Mark Gatlin with Carter & Sloope, a Macon consulting engineering firm, told city officials Wednesday the city has a limited amount of time to address the problem. A "very small" amount of ammonia is assimilated in the creek, Gatlin said.

"Whatever we do today, 10 years from now, it's going to be something else," Gatlin said, adding that his company can develop a plan to address the situation.

The project, which must be in compliance in 36 months, will cost $6 million. Gatlin said that by the end of the year, the city must submit a detailed plan to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

The project will be carried out within the existing waste water treatment plant operation. Gatlin said that to address the situation with a new facility to remove ammonia would cost $20 million.

The mussels, bivalve mollusks, are not in Oquina Creek, only in the river, said Chris White, city utilities superintendent.

The city began appealing the ammonia-related ruling in 2018, citing that what goes into Oquina Creek has no impact on mussels in the river.

Gatlin pointed out that when the Ochlockonee River enters Florida, a new set of environmental standards comes into play.

White said the city is permitted by EPD to emit 6.5 gallons of effluent daily from the biological waste water treatment plant.

"We average about 3.5 million to 3.7 million gallons a day," he said.  

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820