CL&W considers buying land for sludge disposal

October 21, 2010 10:56:00 AM

Ryan Poe - [email protected]


The Columbus Light and Water board today will likely discuss spending as much as $1.8 million to buy land in Lowndes County for sludge disposal. 


The proposal, which is one of two received before the application deadline Wednesday, would solve the city''s long-term sludge storage problem, said CL&W General Manager Todd Gale. 


The city would, over time, take treated wastewater and iron oxide sludge from its three wastewater lagoons and transport it to the land, he said. 


The city approved a $368,443 bid in 2009 to raise levees at its wastewater plant after the lagoons became filled almost to capacity, Gale said. 


The raised levees give the city enough sludge storage space for at least 20 years, he added. 


With time to spare, the board may need to wait to buy land until other, more pressing needs have been met, said board member Tom Sneed. 


"It''s my personal opinion that we need to do some more investigation," he said. 


"We need to look at expenses as a whole and decide what to do." 


The board had budgeted $800,000 for sludge disposal about two years before then, but prices spiked, leaving the board with insufficient funds to buy land, Gale said. 


"We were at the point where those lagoons were getting full and we didn''t have time," he said. 


Of the two proposals, the top prospect is likely the 118 acres near the intersection of Pickensville Road and Shady Lane owned by developer Russell Sheffield. 


Sheffield, owner of Sheffield Construction, has already completed the lengthy permit process with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and is awaiting final approval from the Golden Triangle Regional Solid Waste Management Authority. 


He applied for a permit in 2009 when the board first considered buying land for sludge disposal. 


The land has been appraised twice, from two different approaches, Gale said.  


One appraisal, which considered the raw worth of the land, placed its value at about $500,000, or about $4,237 per acre. The second appraisal, which looked at cost comparisons for transporting the sludge, put the value at $1.8 million, or about $15,200 per acre. 


Gale said the board could request a third appraisal or average the appraisals for a final estimate. 


The second land proposal was submitted by Ronnie and Donna West Enterprises. They offered to sell 115 acres near Pickensville Road and Hairston Bend Road, within a mile of the other proposed property, for $450,000. 


The cost of the land would cost more than the bid for CL&W because of several other expenses, said Gale, who surveyed the land Wednesday. 


The property had timber that would have to be removed and hydric soil deposits, which indicated wetlands, Gale said.  


The owners of the land had also not begun the sludge disposal permit process or received engineering permits, Gale added.