Major construction begins at DeKalb’s main water treatment plant

DeKalb County launched a $187 million expansion of its primary wastewater facility Friday, breaking ground on the largest public works project in the county's history.

Construction on the Snapfinger Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant will eventually increase its capacity from 36 million gallons a day to 54 million gallons a day.

The upgrade is necessary to address the 47-year-old plant’s aging infrastructure and to prepare for projected population growth, according to the county.

The plant will be odorless, and the expansion is expected to take about five years, said Kenneth Saunders, DeKalb’s assistant watershed director who oversees capital improvement projects.

“We’ll have almost drinking-water quality effluent coming from the plant,” he said. The treated water will be discharged into the South River.

The project is part of a $1.35 billion worth of water and sewer improvements planned by the county.

DeKalb residents and businesses are funding the upgrades. The county has increased water and sewer billing rates by 16 percent in 2011 and by 11 percent in each of the following three years.

Improvements at the Snapfinger plant, located south of Interstate 20, got off to a rocky start. The county halted work in September 2013 because of construction problems, including a structurally unsound retaining wall meant to protect the plant expansion. That job was run by Desmear Systems, a Tucker company that won a $7.7 million contract.

The job was rebid, and it’s now being handled by contractor Archer Western and construction manager Tetra Tech. AECOM has been hired as DeKalb’s overall capital improvement program manager.

“We’ve been waiting for this for some time,” said Zach Williams, DeKalb’s chief operating officer. “What it represents is that good things are happening in DeKalb County.”

Site preparation already has been completed at a cost of about $7 million. The groundbreaking Friday marked the start of the project’s second phase. Another $80 million of work will be done to add storage and increase pumping capacity.