Fairfield WWTP options report sparks call for third party review

WINNSBORO – The long awaited Technical Analysis of Options report for the Fairfield Joint Water and Sewer System’s (FJWSS) wastewater treatment system was finally presented in public Tuesday evening during a meeting of the FJWSS’s technical committee.

The report, compiled by the FJWSS’s contract engineer, Bill Bingham, owner of American Engineering, was intended to provide information that could assist the FJWSS commission in determining the best location to build and discharge a new wastewater treatment plant for Fairfield County. There are two primary options – one would discharge into Cedar Creek; the other would discharge into Broad River.

Bingham’s report was supposed to analyze the costs and timeline for designing, planning, permitting and constructing each of the two wastewater treatment plant options.

However, at the end of the hour-and-a-half meeting Tuesday night, there was little consensus as to the accuracy and objectivity of the findings reported in Bingham’s 150+ page tome.

Several cost estimates over the last two years for the two options placed the Cedar Creek option at around $45 million and 2-1/2 years to construct,  and the Broad River option at anywhere from $75 – $90 million and five to six years to construct.

Bingham’s report, however, puts the cost of a BNR system discharging into the Broad River option at about the same cost as a higher level of treatment MBR system discharging into Cedar Creek. In one scenario, Bingham said an MBR system discharging into Cedar Creek would cost $41.9 million, and a BNR system discharging into the Broad would cost about $42.3 million, a difference of only about $1 million.

In another scenario – using larger pipe – Bingham says the Broad River option would actually save about $20 Million over expanding the plant at Big Cedar Creek.

While the report has been prepared for almost two months, Bingham did not turn it over to the committee until just a few days before the Tuesday night meeting, causing committee members to say they had not had adequate time to study any breakdown of Bingham’s reported costs. 

While some construction time estimates have put the completion of a wastewater treatment plant at Cedar Creek at 2-1/2 years and the Broad from five to six years, Bingham’s report has the construction time for each plant option at about four years – to be competed in 2027.

Both Crager and Taylor reminded Bingham that time was of the essence.

“It is critical to have the plant up and running, as soon as possible, in order to be able take advantage of potential growth, and to insure that the new plant will have the customer base needed to make it self-sufficient,” Taylor said.Committee Chair Kyle Crager, an engineer, and Taylor, both committee members, poked holes in Bingham’s cost estimates, routes for the pipelines and sources of available funding for the water system.

Both Bingham and the committee accused the other of bias.

“There is some cost in the connector project that favors the Broad River option,” Crager said of Bingham’s report. “But it does not appear to be reflected in your current draft [report].”

Crager said that, in his opinion, the report was a bit biased.

“I think everyone in this room is interested in knowing what the best option is, and we’re hoping to get there,” Crager said. “But, in my opinion, we’re not there yet.”

Bingham, said several times during the meeting that he was not biased, but had been instructed two years ago by the previous council to build a plant that would discharge into the Broad.

“That was my instructions,” Bingham said. “I was told to go to the Broad.”

Taylor said engineering and facts should drive the decision of where to take the discharge, not politics.

“Maybe we could have a third party, non-biased person, not someone looking to get future work, to just give an assessment, evaluate the facts, what’s been studied so far, with politics set aside.”

Crager agreed that an objective, non-local should be considered. He said a qualified person shouldn’t take more than three to four weeks to review Bingham’s report.

Asked by Crager where the committee wanted to go from here, Johnson leaned toward sticking with Bingham.

“We’ve spent $1.8 million and here we’re saying, ‘Let’s go another route and get somebody else.’ But the county has to pay the bill,” Johnson said. “Are we doubting him [Bingham]? We don’t need to keep coming up with other avenues.”

The committee voted 4-0 to recommend to the FJWSS board to seek out a third party to help them determine the best location to build and discharge a new wastewater treatment plant for Fairfield County, including a cost/time analysis for constructing the facility.

The FJWSS will next meet on Tuesday, June 27, at the Midlands Tech campus in Winnsboro.

Bingham’s complete report can be found here or downloaded below.

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