During a public hearing Monday night, Johnston County Commissioners modified a special use permit for a 623 acre parcel of land they own on County Home Road off Highway 210 near Smithfield. In doing so, the County can now place a new Wastewater Treatment Plant at the site.
Commissioners held the hearing to clear up confusion on setbacks for the adjacent Johnston County Landfill and the new treatment plant. The confusion arose from the September 2001 purchase of the Heavner-Holding Land Tract to expand county operations at the landfill site.
After unanimously approving the modification on Monday, the County can now move forward with a new $65 million wastewater treatment plant on County Home Road.
The new plant will have the capacity to treat 4 million gallons of wastewater per day. The existing treatment plant capacity is 9.5 million gallons per day.
County officials held an informational meeting about the proposed new plant on January 17th at Pisgah Baptist Church but several nearby residents we spoke with only learned about the sewer plant when we called them this week.
“We haven’t heard anything about it,” said Vernon McLendon whose home will be within sight of the new treatment plant. “My concern is groundwater quality. We have a number of homes out here that are still on groundwater wells. I’m worried about the stench and the devaluation of my property. There is plenty of land (the county owns) down the road and farther away from people’s houses where they can built it and it would serve the same purpose.”
Donald Norris, who lives on County Home Road, told JoCoReport that he and his neighbors already deal with the odor and trash from the County Landfill. He is now concerned what problems a sewer plant will bring to the same area. “My concern is the open pit lagoon. When the raw sewage goes in there airborne particles can drift. I don’t want it to be hazardous to our health.”
“I don’t see where it being in operation 24 hours a day it won’t be a health hazard,” Norris said Friday. “I asked them to do a study but they said it is safe, but I don’t know if you can take their word to be honest with you. The smell is another concern.”
Norris said the landfill is bad enough. “Right now, sometimes you can’t even stay in the yard because it smells so bad.” He is worried odors from the sewage treatment plant will only worsen the problem along County Home Road and Highway 210.
County Manager Rick Hester said residents should not be concerned about well contamination saying any discharged treated effluent is expected to be pumped back to an existing discharge location into the Neuse River. As for the odor concerns, “We don’t know if there will be odor issue in the future due to technological advances, but if there are we will be 100 percent committed to correcting it.”
According to Chandra Cox Farmer, Director of Johnston County Public Utilities, construction on the new treatment plant will begin in mid 2020 with completion in late 2022.