GRANT, Ala. – The Huntsville metro area continues to experience tremendous growth, and Huntsville Utilities is working to make sure its water system is well ahead of the curve.
On Tuesday, August 21 the utility held a ribbon cutting to celebrate the opening of the new Owens, Statum and Wall Southeast Water Treatment Plant. This is the system’s third deep water intake, pulling from the Tennessee River. The other two intakes are located off South Memorial Parkway and further downstream in Triana.
The $90 million plant is located on 266 acres on Walker Road in Marshall County. It currently treats 12 million gallons of surface water a day with a potential build-out capacity of 96 million gallons per day.
Construction on the plant started in 2015, but it has been in the planning stages since 2005, when the system experienced high demand due to extreme heat and drought. The same situation also played out the following summer.
“We hit 80 percent of our pumping capacity,” said Huntsville Utilities spokesperson Joe Gehrdes. “That was the trigger for any responsible water utility to increase its capacity.”
Gehrdes said this new plant gives the system more redundancy — which is important for several reasons.
“That helps protect us from problems with the system, or if there is a problem on the river, such as a spill, or a problem with one of the plants. We still have two other plants online to pick up the slack,” he explained.
Water from the plant is piped back to Madison County, joining in with Huntsville Utilities’ system in New Hope.
Preparing for Growth
Huntsville and Madison County have experienced tremendous growth and leaders knew it was vital to build this new plant as more people move to the area every day.
The plant was finished on time and under budget. At the ribbon cutting ceremony, speakers commended all who were involved, from construction partners, employees, supervisors and utility boards for a job well done.
“It is a testament to partnership, between Huntsville Utilities, Tetra Tech, Brasfield & Gorrie and the Gas and Water Board,” said Wes Kelley, Huntsville Utilities CEO. “Their mind is fixated on protecting the customer. This isn’t a widget we hope to produce and sell. This plant provides life. It protects the community’s health and wellness.”
“Huntsville is popping at the seams. This plant is built for well into the future,” Kelley added.
Other areas of the U.S. experiencing high growth have suffered from water shortages. This new plant ensures we won’t face the same challenges.
“Never in our history have we had to issue mandatory conservation because of lack of water,” said Gehrdes. “Having access to the river is key to that, and now we have an additional intake. At buildout, it would double our daily pumping capacity.”
The Owens, Statum & Wall Southeast Water Treatment Plant is named after Tony Owens, former President and CEO of Huntsville Utilities, Stanley “Shot” Statum, former board member of the Huntsville Utilities Natural Gas and Waterworks Boards, and Dr. James Wall, Jr., Secretary of the Natural Gas and Waterworks Boards.
The three men were in attendance at the ceremony and each received individual honors, including resolutions and plenty of applause.
“Sharing my name with Tony and Shot on this building is something I’ll always cherish,” said Dr. Wall.
Brasfield & Gorrie served as general contractors for the construction and Tetra Tech provided engineering and design services.
“It’s so valuable that Huntsville Utilities has the foresight, and looks so far into the future in relation to growth and economic development,” said Christian Dunaway, Vice President of Tetra Tech. “We’ve had all the stars align perfectly.”
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle thanked the employees of Huntsville Utilities for seeing the project to fruition.
“This plant is looking forward to 15-20 years from today, to what this community will be,” said Mayor Battle. “You’ve set this community up for success for years and years and years.”