Chairman of WASA decries ‘provincial attitudes’ about extending sewer outside PTC

Considering recent news and developments regarding the policies and work of the Peachtree City Water and Sewerage Authority (PCWASA), our Board of Directors would like to provide some background information about the Authority’s history, mission and scope of services, as outlined in its charter.

The current PCWASA Board has members who have been in place only dating as far back as 2009, and all board members are volunteers, residents of Peachtree City, and appointed by the PTC City Council. This board does not have the ability to comment on what was happening at the Authority at the time of its founding. We only can make observations from matters of public record and inform Authority customers and citizens of the challenges PCWASA has faced and the progress we have made on their behalf.

The sewerage system that PCWASA inherited — when the Authority was formed 30 years ago and began operating the system 10 years later in 1997 — was in critically poor physical condition. As a result, PCWASA was almost pushed to the brink of bankruptcy. Rate payers have borne the burden of correcting that neglect, but they likewise have received a great deal since from that investment.

Today, PCWASA is a financially sound, modernized and award-winning system in the middle phases of updating its infrastructure, as needed, to assure PCWASA customers receive safe, reliable sewer services.

When forming PCWASA, the Georgia General Assembly referenced a sewer utility that would be permitted to reach 30 MGD (million gallons per day) of capacity, if necessary. Those estimates have since been revised and corrected accordingly, based on more current and sound data. PCWASA was founded as an independent, autonomous, public corporation — an Authority — serving “Peachtree City and environs.”

From its inception, PCWASA included areas and rate payers not strictly in Peachtree City, and those “environs” are what may require expansion in the future.

The current 6 MGD capacity of PCWASA’s two treatment plants is in line with industry standards. PCWASA treatment capacity came to fruition thanks to long-term master planning, aided by the objective recommendations of reputable civil engineering expertise. The construction of the last facility upgrade was proposed approximately 15 years ago, and in the last few years events have occurred that caused this capacity to be exceeded.

The most noted incident was in 2013, when the Fayette Water System faced a crisis with “smelly” water due to excess sludge. It was PCWASA, as an independent authority, that stepped in with expertise and treatment capacity to solve the problem that threatened our greater community’s drinking water quality and regulatory permitting as a public water provider.

Thus, the PCWASA Board of Directors believes that the citizens of Fayette County and Peachtree City would be better served if the Authority remained independent of the city or county.

Since the maturing or “build out” of the current PCWASA system, several events have impacted the projected demand that warranted the current treatment capacity — the economic recession of 2008, the loss of Photo Circuits (the largest sewer customer of PCWASA), the conservative planned growth by the PTC City Council, and other factors. Thus, PCWASA has not demonstrated, nor included in its master planning, the need to expand another 24 MGD of capacity, as originally permitted decades ago.

Any new PCWASA customer, regardless of origin, will pay their fair share of the cost of the infrastructure, as well as continuing operational, management and maintenance costs of the system. New customers help to alleviate the financial responsibilities of current ratepayers as well.

We regret losing the opportunity to service the city of Tyrone (as well as other opportunities) and can see the possibility that all Fayette County residents may pay for that political decision eventually.

But PCWASA worked for years with representatives of the PTC City Council and the city of Tyrone on a deal that would be good for all parties. However, as the years passed with no agreement in place, Tyrone elected to look elsewhere for their increased capacity needs.

We hope provincial attitudes will not continue to try to undermine PCWASA credibility and deter this Authority from its charter objectives and prudent actions to achieve optimally cost efficient sewer system operations.

The PCWASA Board of Directors continues to be committed to its mission to do what is financially and environmentally sound for all PCWASA customers, citizens of Peachtree City and Fayette County, and others within our service region, as envisioned by our charter.

Bill Holland

PCWASA Chairman

Peachtree City, Ga.