The Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission’s finance committee considered making a foray into sludge hauling at its Tuesday meeting.

Executive Director Jimmy Junkin said the utility pays a pretty penny to have sludge hauled from its three wastewater treatment plants to a disposal site.

“We’re paying an exorbitantly high price, we think, for it, and we think we can purchase the equipment, add an individual to drive the stuff to the landfill, and we’ll have possibly a low-six-figure savings for hauling the sludge ourselves,” Junkin said.

Currently, the JWSC pays a third party to transport sludge of its three sewage treatment plants to a disposal site.

Sludge is a byproduct of the sewage treatment process and can come in multiple forms.

By the time sewage reaches the end of the treatment process, it’s divided into treated water and sludge.

The sludge is either transported as-is or dried using a machine called a blower. The resulting material, called “cake” by treatment plant workers, takes longer to produce but is cheaper to transport.

All three of the utility’s sewage treatment plants produce sludge, but only the Academy Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Brunswick is equipped with a blower.

Junkin proposed trucking sludge from the other two plants — the Southport treatment plant at Exit 29 of Interstate 95 and the Dunbar Creek treatment plant on St. Simons Island — to Academy Creek to dry, and then hauling the resulting cake to a disposal site with its own truck.

The plan would require the JWSC to buy its own truck to haul the cake, Junkin said.

The utility may also need to rehabilitate and upgrade the drying system to accommodate the increased workload, to the point of potentially rebuilding the whole system, Junkin said.

Committee member Donald Elliot asked if the plan would require the utility to hire a new employee to drive the sludge.

Multiple other departments have positions that have remained unfilled for a long time, Junkin said. If they’ve been getting along with those positions vacant so far, he said they may be able to take the money intended for one of those jobs and use it to pay a driver.

In other business, Junkin said the utility’s meter reading division is in “dire” need of new vehicles.

“They need the trucks right now. I’m going to go ahead and have them rent to get us by,” Junkin said.

The division ideally needs five new vehicles, but Junkin said three new trucks are a necessity.

“Come to the next commission meeting with the prices and recommended sourcing,” Elliot said.

Committee Chairman Steve Copeland, on the other hand, wanted to get something more substantive for the full commission to look at.

“What I want you to do is to get all the information together and get that to the three of us, these three commissioners. We’re going to put together a recommendation that we will have at the next commission meeting as an approval item. Now, all we have is the gap to deal with,” Copeland said.

The finance committee also discussed the performance of its investments and heard reports from the utility’s finance department, among other things.

The next meeting of the full utility commission is scheduled for Feb. 21.

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