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Wastewater lagoon recovery plan proposed

Posted: September 18, 2017 5:20 p.m.
Updated: September 19, 2017 1:00 a.m.
KBS Associates LLC/Provided by the city of Camden

An image of what one of the city’s former wastewater treatment lagoons could look like, as imagined by Ken Simmons, who also designed the city’s new tennis complex. The concept is to convert the 16-acre site into a public educational/recreational wetland for environmental enthusiasts of all ages to enjoy, complete with access to the Wateree River.

There may come a day when hardly anyone will remember that a 16-acre wastewater lagoon existed at the end of Bramblewood Plantation Road.

During Camden City Council’s Sept. 12 meeting, Ken B. Simmons, of KBS Associates LLC, presented a plan to convert the former wastewater lagoon into an educational/recreation wetland environment. Step-by-step, Simmons -- whose firm also designed the city’s tennis complex that is under construction on Campbell Street -- showed how he plans to transform the site.

City Manager Mel Pearson said this is not the first time Simmons has worked on an environmental project; Simmons added it is something he enjoys doing. Several times during his presentation, Simmons said the project could be done in stages over whatever length of time the city desires.

Simmons said the lagoon, which was originally one of two used by the city’s wastewater treatment plant, is approximately 25 feet in elevation above the Wateree River, whereas the interior of the lagoon basin is only 11 feet above the river. His idea is to re-grade the riverbank to accommodate a boat ramp and more, making it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“So, when we go in to look at putting a boat ramp, it cannot exceed a 5 percent slope,” Simmons said. “Obviously, we (can’t) change the water level … we looked at how we can minimize that distance and came up with grading this site down 10 feet. That eliminates 250 feet of ramp.”

With the existing slope, Simmons estimated a ramp would need to be as long as 500 feet. He also suggested a staging area be built nearby that could also be used as an emergency vehicle turnaround. Above the re-sloped riverbank, an approximately 80-space parking lot would be installed. A smaller lot of about 40 spaces would be built at the eastern end of the lagoon near the Bramblewood Plantation Road entrance.

In response to a question from Councilwoman Joanna Craig, Simmons said the 100-year flood plain at the site is 151 feet. If the riverbank was re-sloped, he said, there could be times when the lagoon would flood.

“(But) we’re creating an environment where flooding wouldn’t really occur -- it wouldn’t really affect it much and may help it,” Simmons said.

He said the dirt moved by re-sloping the riverbank would be used to “soften” the edges of the rectangular lagoon so that it looks more natural. On the southern side of the lagoon, adjacent to the treatment plant, a vegetative buffer would be installed.

The next step would be to dig out the bottom of the lagoon’s interior in order to create a varied topography where lower elevations would be filled with water and higher elevations would become islands surrounded by shallow wetlands in order to create different types of what Simmons called “vegetative communities.”

“Some may be in 6 inches of water, some may be level with the water, some may be 3 or 4 feet high,” he said. “We want to get the maximum environmental impact out of this area.”

Simmons said a well may need to be dug or the water for the lagoon may come from an existing source. One of his suggestions is to create an upper pool at the southeast corner that would be filled by a well as the primary water source.

“That would create a waterfall that cascades down into the pond,” he said, referring to the main lagoon,

At that point, Simmons said, the city would already have a multi-use recreational facility, including river access.

“If you want to take it one more step forward, you can put in some trails and some bridges,” he said. “Now, you’d have more access, hiking trails and areas where people could exercise. The next step, you put it some observation areas.”

Simmons noted that, at the northeast corner of the lagoon, the walking trail would be linked to another trail marked on the drawing as the Bolton Creek/Downtown Connector.

Finally, a much larger building could be built near the southwest corner of the lagoon, near the parking lot that could be anything from a shed to a floating environmental center, which could also house bathrooms, according to Simmons

“You could have a tremendous learning experience right at the water level,” he said.

“When can we get started?” Mayor Alfred Mae Drakeford asked as soon as Simmons finished.

Simmons said the reclaimed lagoon could have various uses, including teaching people how to canoe and kayak, teaching canoe/kayak safety. However, City Manager Mel Pearson also said the plan for right now is not to have any city-funded manned services. Instead, Pearson said, the lagoon would be available to schools, other agencies, associations and others who might want to use it as a “classroom.” Simmons said in addition to schools, birdwatchers and others may want to visit the site.

Simmons said the plan is flexible with, for the moment, approximately a little bit less than half of the proposed environment being filled with water.

“Another thing I’ll mention, certainly rice and indigo (are) very historical element(s) here. You could even take some of the big green areas and put in an agricultural field, water controlled, and teach the importance of how you grow rice and how you grow indigo,” Simmons said. “The beauty of this is that we can create anything we want.”

Simmons also explained that the city and his firm are being very careful not to have the site -- as it is today -- classified as a wetland so that Camden can make changes even five or 10 years from now without violating any wetland rules.

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