An upgrade for the Loxley wastewater treatment plant with the help of a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant and loan will fund a $9.6 million project in the facility.
“It’s great for the town,” Loxley Utilities Superintendent Robert Davis said. “I think it’s almost unheard of to get that kind of money for a grant, so we’re all excited about it. Hopefully, we can grow moving forward. We’re growing fast just like everybody else in Baldwin County, especially north of town.”
Loxley, with a population of around 2,300 in 2017, issued building permits for 120 new homes last year. The wastewater plant upgrade will help as the number of homes serviced by that plant increases above the 963 it currently serves. Davis said the water department has more than 3,300 customers, but some of those are outside city limits.
“Most of it will go toward upgrading our equipment and then we’re going to install a new outfall line to Fish River,” Davis said. “We’re limited on what we can pump right now because there’s an eight-inch line from the plant to the river so we’re going to upgrade that to a 16-inch line.”
The project won’t increase the amount of water the plant can treat and return, but Davis said the capacity is more than adequate. Mainly, it will just cover some aging fixtures that need to be replaced.
“It had been 12 years since our original plant’s been built and we needed to upgrade some of our equipment,” Davis said. “It’s rated for 750,000 gallons a day and right now we’re averaging about 350,000 gallons a day, just about half of our capacity.”
The larger line to Fish River will help the plant keep up during deluges of rain that occur regularly in the subtropical climate of Baldwin County.
“With the integration of the new outfall line it will give us better pumping capacity going to the river to manage storm events and just regular flow,” Davis said. “Hopefully, with the new equipment we’re installing, this will give us greater capability and a better treatment process overall.”
A significant spill — estimated at 268,901 gallons — occurred in October, but stormwater wasn’t the culprit. According to a news release from the city, a malfunction in the treatment plant’s disinfection system caused partially treated effluent to be discharged into Fish River.
“Not because of storms here lately,” Davis said. “We had the one overflow awhile back, but that was because of equipment failure but nothing because of overflow.”
Davis said an engineering firm hired by the city found the grant and loan from the USDA and suggested the city take advantage by applying. The loan amount was for about $4.8 million with the grant coming in at $4.7 million.
“We work with Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood and they always stay on top of looking for funding sources for the town,” Davis said.
In November, Loxley was also awarded a $350,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs to replace aged and damaged sewer lines along the east part of town.
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