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Roswell: Planned water plant needed

Current Roswell water plant 80 years old

Roy Fowler, with the Roswell water utility, explains how the city's 1933 water plant collects, filters and pumps water it draws from Big Creek. The city plans to replace the plant with a modern building to lower costs and increase efficiency. JONATHAN COPSEY. (click for larger version)
April 03, 2013
ROSWELL, Ga. When Roswell city officials approved building a new water plant and water storage tank, many in the city questioned why the taxpayers should foot a $15 million bill.

Alice Champagne, Roswell's water resource manager, said a new building was a necessity to meet demand and keep Roswell in the water game.

The Roswell water plant was built in 1933 and could produce 300,000 gallons a day. The plant received updates in 1955 and 1990 to increase capacity to 1.5 million gallons a day.

Champagne said the plant has grown organically and "piecemeal," making it inefficient in many ways.

"Some of those inefficiencies make it more costly," she said.

The water plant draws its water from Big Creek, a tributary of the Chattahoochee River, and is part of the state's larger, region-wide water plans. Seven workers operate the facility 24-7 year round.

"Everyone looked at the Chattahoochee River like a resource that would be there forever," said Champagne. "The recent drought and the 'Water Wars' show how necessary it is."

The facility is big enough to almost fully supply the city's demands, Champagne said.

Roswell water users pay $3.70 per 1,000 gallons

Fulton water users pay $3.02 per 1,000 gallons

5,500 homes and businesses served
In the winter, 1.3 million gallons of water a day are needed; in the summer, that number rises to about 2 million gallons a day.

When the city's need outstrips supply, Roswell must purchase any extra water from Fulton County, at a rate of $2.27 per 1,000 gallons, which is a wholesale rate, said Champagne.

Every year, buying the water from the county adds roughly $500,000 to the city's expenses.

Part of the need for an upgrade, Champagne said, was the Roswell plant will sometimes goes offline.

"One of the main problems we have is the intake is old and it's not designed to keep up with flows in the creek," she said.

When the water level is too low, the plant has to be shut down. When power goes out, it's a similar story.

"We then have to open the valve from county," she said.

With the addition of a new water plant and the 10 million gallon raw water storage tank, Champagne said the increased capacity will reduce the dependence on the county for water.

"As we put that water into the system, we don't have to open that valve as much to Fulton County. We will have more flexibility once it's upgraded and have water tanks to store raw water directly from the creek."

The tank will supply a backup for the water plant, should water levels in the creek drop too far.

Costing roughly $15 million, the city would take out a loan from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority for 20 years to pay for the plant. The city expects to pay for that entirely with money from the water authority.

Also, the city has built a new well off Willeo Road that taps into an underground aquifer. It is expected to pump about 110,000 gallons a day.

The city has a permit to pump 15 days of the month for 24 hours a day, although Leonard said he expects demand to reduce that number to about eight hours a day.

The new well is an experiment, in a way. The state is watching the well closely, monitoring its effects and viability, said Water Operations Manager Mike Leonard.

The new well off Willeo Road is in testing, and should begin normal operations by the end of the month.

"No one has drilled a well in this area before," Leonard said.

This article was published in the Revue & News April 3, 2013 edition

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Tags: Government & News & Crime

  1. report print email
    Fulton Water usage fee is wrong.
    April 04, 2013 | 05:48 PM

    Prior to 2/1/13, Fulton County Finance charged $3.02/1000 gallons of water (& $5.74/1000 for sewer) PLUS $6.90 each as a service fee.

    From 2/1/13 forward, FCF has been charging $2.90/1000 for water consumed from THAT DATE, & $5.51/1000 for sewer. The service fees are still $13.80.

    These rates are NOT reflected on the reverse side of the bill; the $3.02 & $5.74 are still quoted there.

    Michael Bradley
  2. report print email
    Planned water plant needed?
    April 05, 2013 | 02:11 PM

    The Roswell water plant has been justified with "competition keeps rates low." Thanks for keeping my Fulton County water 68 cents a thousand gallons cheaper.

    But on the other side . . . how is Roswell able to justify charging 68 cents more?

    Peter Morgan
  3. report print email
    More Half Truths & Hidden Costs
    April 06, 2013 | 02:59 PM

    First, I am pleased to see that what I have been saying since 2010has been exposed, that the water well which cost over $700,000 from customers reserves is a bust. The City time & again quoted 300,000 gallons per day and now the truth as stated by the Army Corp of Engineers the city can only pump water from the well 15 days per month with an effective yield of 100,000 per day. That constitutes a drop in the bucket.
    Next the water tank will hold ONLY 10,000,000 gallons of water and the proposed plant will consume 3,000,000 gallons per day. If the creek runs dry thats three days of water before the city opens up the Fulton County spicked full blast.

    And the real kicker is that the FY2014 budget projections include an annual budget of half a million dollars in water pipe repairs per year going froward which is not included (yet) in the proposed new water rates.
    That will bring the total annual debt service payment and infrastructure costs to $1.3 million annually for 5700 residences to pay.

    So to answer the question "how is Roswell able to justify charging 68 cents more". The truth is - they cannot because it will eventually be much more.You do the math.

    Lee Fleck
  4. report print email
    The KICKER
    April 07, 2013 | 11:08 AM

    Why does the Wood administration fail to do what is right when no one is looking?
    The city purchases water for its needs from its own water plant (i.e. for use in the City municipal pool, drinking and lavatory needs at City facilities, water needs for the historic sites, as well as the City Arts center, watering the athletic fields, fire protection, and the needs at the Roswell detention center, etc.).
    But instead of billing itself at cost, which is in the vicinity of $2.25 per 1000 gallons, the Wood administration takes advantage of all citizens by billing itself at the highest residential water rate.
    Based on open records requests the financial facts provided by the City Water Department indicate an average billing rate for the city’s own consumption approaching $9 per 1000 gallons.
    The city garners a sizable profit from its own water consumption at the expense of not only its water customers but from all citizens most who gain nothing from this water plant.
    That's correct, the people paying for water from the city water plant not only pay at an average rate of double that of Fulton County, but the current administration takes further advantage by charging these same customers for the water the city consumes at an astronomical number. It’s outrageous!

    Lee Fleck
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