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New Camden wastewater treatment plant up and running

Posted: February 27, 2014 5:40 p.m.
Updated: February 28, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Sam Davis, deputy director of the city of Camden’s public works department, made the announcement at the end of his presentation Tuesday to Camden City Council.

“Today is an historic day in the city of Camden,” Davis began. “At approximately 1 p.m. … the wastewater that goes into the line that goes into the new plant, started taking place today. The contractor, engineers and our environmental team has been working since 2:30 this morning to make the connection to the new lines. We have some smaller lines that we have to tie in, but the major line is tied in.”

Davis noted that the city began working on the project approximately four years ago after the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) mandated that the city build a mechanical facility to replace a lagoon-based one.

“We started on the design in 2010 -- it seems more like 20 years than four years -- it’s been a long time coming. We’re very excited about it. I think you’re going to be very pleased with the product you’re going to get,” he said to applause from council and others present.

City Manager Mel Pearson noted that Davis’ first day on the job coincided with the beginning of the process to build the new plant.

“You steered us through the construction planning, you were an integral part of the funding process. It’s hard to demonstrate the input that you’ve had on this whole thing, Sam,” Pearson said. “It’s amazing what you and your team have done here.”

He said that while he wished Davis’ entire team at the plant was present Tuesday, he knew that they were working to ensure everything was “flowing downhill.”

Davis’ actual presentation to council Tuesday detailed plans to close the second of the old plant’s two lagoons. He said DHEC recently approved a lagoon closure plan the city and its engineering consultants came up with in December. The agency also approved bid documents connected with the closure.

That plan will allow the city to land apply sludge existing in the lagoon on the site instead of having to de-water it and transport it offsite to be land applied elsewhere.

“The engineers’ initial cost estimate to transport that sludge offsite was $2 million,” Davis said. “The engineers’ cost estimate to apply the sludge onsite is $750,800. So, that’s why this closure is so significant, because we’re going to save at least $1.2 million by not having to transport that sludge offsite.”

He explained that DHEC’s approval of the bid documents is also significant because it allows the city to use contingency money that is within Camden’s S.C. State Revolving Fund loan. The city has in excess of $2.5 million in contingency funds available, Davis said. Bids will be opened on April 1.

Davis said the lagoon should be closed by Sept. 1.

“As we work through the closure of this lagoon, we’re going to be working on the next stage of this project which is, what do we do with this site once we have reclimated it. It’s our desire and concept to create an artificial wetland, a wildlife observation area, walking trail and canoe launch. So, we’ll be working toward that concept,” Davis said.

One possible funding source for that project, he said, is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Davis said a site inspection is being scheduled.

“They established a program called ‘Partners for Fish and Wildlife,” he explained. “That program restores historic habitats which, then, benefit fish and wildlife. Our project is a perfect fit with that, so we look forward to getting them here on site, meet with them, get their ideas on what we can do to enhance our concept and their willingness to come on board with us.”

Davis said the city will continue to research other funding avenues as well.

After Davis’ announcement about the new plant being open, Pearson noted that announcing the pending lagoon closure is a “pretty good statement.”

“We can go ahead with the environmental observation area, making a useful asset out of that lagoon will also be a pleasure,” Pearson told Davis. “You’ve also built a $30 million-plus treatment plant with the first use of (new) technology in the country for Camden, Camden can be that leader as well. We’re all grateful for what you’ve done, you and that team you’ve got out there.”

Mayor Tony Scully suggested that a tour be conducted of the new plant.

“It’s one of the most exciting things I’ve seen since I moved here,” Scully said.

CPD stats

One of the other major reports Tuesday afternoon came from Camden Police Department (CPD) Chief Joe Floyd. As he has each year, he provided council with annual statistics on, primarily, reported offenses and traffic accidents.

Floyd prefaced his report by announcing that Ptl. John Patton is the CPD’s 2013 Officer of the Year, with the 2013 Wilson Clyburn Award going to Ptl. Penny Lloyd. He said FN Manufacturing donated a new handgun to Patton for earning the officer of the year award. Floyd said the Clyburn award is handed out to an officer who best represents the characteristics of former officer Wilson Clyburn. He said Clyburn was known for his ability to deal and form relationships with people and to represent the department to all citizens of Camden.

Floyd then dived into the numbers. At one point, the chief highlighted the number of DUI arrests CPD officers made during the last year: 71, up from 62 the year before.

“We’re already on track this year to exceed the 71 based on numbers that we’ve made in January and so far in February,” Floyd said. “These two numbers aren’t that far apart until you look back two years ago, three years ago, four ago. We were averaging 30 DUIs a year; that’s what our 10-year average was.”

Floyd said the number of DUI arrests has doubled in recent years not necessarily because of more people drinking and driving, but due to funding that helped his officers catch more drunk drivers on the road.

“We got involved in a CAST grant that was managed by the ALPHA Center. That grant paid for city officers … to come out on weekends to work as an off-duty officer just to focus on DUIs,” he said.

CAST stands for Community Action for a Safer Tomorrow. Floyd said the CAST funds also assisted the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office and S.C. Highway Patrol in paying for officers’ time focused on DUI enforcement. He said he felt that all three agencies had done “a lot in improving the roadways” in terms of arresting drunk drivers.

Floyd said the grant money helped pay for the time it took to make 23 of the 71 DUIs the CPD recorded.

“That’s potentially 23 DUIs that would not have been arrested had it not been for those officers out there and working through that grant money,” Floyd said.

He said that money will likely run out before the end of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. Despite that, Floyd said, the CPD will have to maintain its commitment to look for DUIs. He estimated it was possible that next year’s DUI arrest total for Camden could be in the 80s.

Floyd told council that the CAST grant was a “one-time deal” for counties with the highest DUI fatality rates.

Other notable statistics regarding reported offenses include:

• a nearly 20 percent rise of minor in possession of alcohol cases, from 170 in 2012 to 212 in 2013, which Floyd attributed to an increase of enforcement at the Carolina and Colonial cups;

• while, overall, assaults dropped 4.5 percent from 2012, the number of criminal sexual assault cases rose from just two in 2012 to nine 2013 -- Floyd said a specific cause has not been identified;

• burglaries are down 29.6 percent, with a substantial drop in residential burglaries from 99 in 2012 to only 67 in 2013;

• drug cases rose 30.4 percent -- all categories rose, most dramatically with crack cocaine arrests rising from only five in 2012 to 24 in 2013;

• identity theft cases more than doubled from 11 to 24, part of what Floyd called a national trend; and

• larceny cases rose 16.7 percent, with shoplifting moving from 73 arrests in 2012 to 107 in 2013 thank, Floyd said, to increased security at one of Camden’s larger department stores.

In terms of traffic accidents, Floyd’s statistics show that 2013 was an average year with 497 incidents. The two top factors were failing to yield and driving too fast for conditions. The Springdale Drive/West DeKalb Street intersection continues to yield the most accidents with 22 in 2013, followed by the intersections of Broad and DeKalb streets (17), Fair and DeKalb streets (15), DeKalb and Mill streets (12) and Fairlawn Drive and DeKalb Street (11).

With those figures in mind, Floyd had an announcement.

“We’ve been looking at this and asking where can we concentrate our efforts on accident prevention,” Floyd said. “Obviously, between Broad and DeKalb at the post office and Fairlawn by the Piggly Wiggly. We’ve had our officers out there working and we tell them that they’re responsible for reducing accidents between the post office and the Piggly Wiggly. We want the public to know that between the post office and the Piggly Wiggly, we’re going to spending a lot of our manpower trying to reduce our accident numbers.”

For the moment, a lot of warnings are being issued along that portion of DeKalb Street, but Floyd said once the public gets the message, those will turn into tickets.

Also during the work session:

• Kershaw County School District (KCSD) Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan invited council to attend a joint KCSD school board/Kershaw County Council meeting coming up Tuesday at 6 p.m.

• Representatives from the S.C. Equine Foundation discussed plans for a new covered arena at the S.C. Equine Center.

• Camden Archives and Museum Director Katherine Richardson updated council on work toward a new African-American history brochure and tour.

• City Sanitation Supervisor Shelley Salmond updated council on the city’s pilot recycling program.

• Council entered executive session to discuss an undisclosed personnel matter.

Council also met in regular session Tuesday night. During the meeting, council honored Kimbrell’s for its recent interior and exterior renovations and unanimously passed second and final reading of an ordinance amending Chapter 152 of the city code; second and final reading of an ordinance authorizing the receipt of easements on Commerce Alley; first reading of an ordinance adopting a five-year update to the city’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan; and a resolution ratifying a mutual aid agreement between the CPD and the Lexington Police Department as well as Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Department.

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