City faced with waste decisions
By LINDSEY SHELTON & VERSHAL HOGAN
NATCHEZ — When one industrial door opens, three more must quickly be unlocked.
Recent success in recruiting industry to Adams County has local leaders thinking through the scenarios that may soon become realities, including what to do with millions of gallons of wastewater.
Two companies, Elevance — which already has a small presence in the Natchez-Adams County Port — and KiOR, have long-term industrial commitments to the port area that will generate the so-called heavy strength industrial wastewater.
A key tool in recruiting future industries will be the ability to service their needs and dispose of their waste.
The strength of wastewater is measured using three different parameters: biological oxygen demand, total suspended solids and fatty oils and grease, Gardner said.
Even a low volume of industrial wastewater has the potential to be high-strength if those parameters measure high, Gardner said.
The plant, Gardner said, is currently using less than half of its capacity, with the city’s household wastewater equaling 2.2 million gallons per day.
Natchez Inc. Executive Director and St. Catherine Creek Utility Authority President Chandler Russ said when Elevance’s expansion comes online it will produce approximately a half-million gallons of wastewater a day, which is well within the capacity of the Waterworks plant.
But although the Waterworks plant has available capacity, it is designed to treat household strength wastewater, not industrial strength, Gardner said.
The plant is having no problem currently treating von Drehle and some KiOR operations, Gardner said.
“KiOR is the highest strength sewage that we treat,” he said. “We have to monitor what they send us, and we’re working together with the company to do that, making sure their strength is not greater than our ability to treat it.”
Russ said the engineering for KiOR’s full plant is also being studied to see how much industrial-grade wastewater it will generate.
The city is considering two options to increase wastewater capacity at the plant. The first, Gardner said, would be constructing a new pretreatment facility somewhere between the port and the wastewater plant.
Gardner said the facility would pretreat high-strength industrial wastewater to get it down to the level the wastewater plant can effectively treat.
If that facility is built, Gardner said, the plant should have no problem meeting the wastewater needs of current and planned industries in Adams County.
“But if you got another KiOR or another Elevance … we may be limited (on capacity),” Gardner said.
Russ said another consideration is that wastewater plants never want to treat beyond 90 percent of their capacity.
“You end up with a tremendous amount of rainfall that comes in — some torrential downpour — and it has an ability to tax your system,” he said. You have got to reserve some capacity for unforeseen events.”
That is why the use of the old International Paper wastewater plant is being considered, Russ said.
The IP plant is massive and has a capacity of 40 million gallons per day, Gardner said. Even if improvements were made to the IP plant, he said, it will still need a minimal flow per day going through the plant or the wastewater cannot be properly treated.
“KiOR, Elevance and potentially Emberclear, all of those are kind of key determinants on the best route of where we go in the future,” Russ said.
Gardner said he is not sure what the minimal flow at the IP plant would be, but he said even if the city put its entire operations at the plant, it would not be enough.
“It would be like a drip in a five-gallon bucket,” he said.
Gardner does not have plans to relocate the city’s entire operation to the IP plant, he said, but for comparison purposes it would take nearly 20 cities the size of Natchez to meet the IP plant capacity.
Gardner said there is a possibility that the IP plant could be sectioned off so only part of the plant’s capacity is used. He said he did not know the exact feasibility of that plan because he has not had time to properly review drawings of the plant.
The cost for constructing at new pretreatment facility or starting up the IP plant are unknown at this point, Gardner said.
Russ said upgrades to the existing Water Works facility or to the IP plant would be funded through a $4.7 million grant to Adams County through the Mississippi Development Authority. The grant was approved for the Elevance project.
“There will be no capital outlay by any entity, whether that is Natchez Water Works or St. Catherine Creek Utility Authority or the county or the city,” Russ said.
If the IP plant comes into play, Russ said it would most likely be the St. Catherine Creek Utility Authority that would take control of the facility, hiring an operator to run it.
The IP plant is part of the property Rentech recently put up for sale. Russ said negotiations about the property are ongoing. At one time, three parties were reportedly interested in the property.
“We are making progress toward that, but there continues to be discussion,” he said. “We are still not signed (on) in any shape or form yet.”
Whatever decision is ultimately made, Water Works and Natchez Inc. are definitely looking at their options, Gardner said.
“We have to look at the future at some point … it’s a good problem to have because it really means Natchez is expanding industrially,” he said.
And that’s one of the reasons Natchez Inc. is interested in the IP facility, Russ said — it could be considered an economic development tool.
“As economic development will continue to move forward in the years ahead and we continue to remain successful in recruitment of businesses and industry, wastewater in general will become a big issue, not only for southwest Mississippi and Mississippi, but for the country in general,” he said. “Having the extreme capacity in your wastewater system will be an important factor in recruitment and being able to service business and industry in the future.
“If at the end of the day you have a system that can process 30 million gallons and you are only sending 4-5 million gallons through there a day, that excess capacity is extremely marketable to business and industry. Being able to say we have 20 million gallons of capacity in our system is something that not many communities will be able to say.”