Federal funding to improve city sewage system overwhelmed by Kia plant

By David Pendered

The federal government has provided its second round of funding to help improve the sewage treatment system in Hogansville, where growth in population and industry related to the nearby Kia manufacturing facility has overwhelmed the city’s sewage system, according to the statement announcing the latest loan.

kia motors, sewage

The Kia plant hosted a celebration when it produced 2 million vehicles at its plant in West Point, on March 29, 2016. Credit: kiamedia.com

According to the statement issued Monday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

  • “The city experienced considerable growth in both residents and industries due to suppliers locating to the area to provide parts and labor to the KIA Plant, which is located in nearby West Point. … The improvements will bring the treatment facility back into compliance with its permits and also increase the treatment capacity of the facility.”

Hogansville was struggling to keep from dumping pollution into state waters, and to properly manage a system that sprays treated sewage onto land, even before the Kia plant opened in 2010, according to enforcement actions taken by the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources:

  • Nov. 13, 2002 – EPD issued an enforcement order involving the city’s wastewater treatment facility. The city wasn’t fined, but was told to improve its system for spraying treated sewage on land and establish a proper water sampling program for Flat Creek.
  • Feb. 24, 2003 – EPD issued an enforcement order involving the city’s sewer system. The city was fined $1,250 and told to immediately stop making unpermitted discharges into an unnamed tributary of Yellow Jacket Creek.
  • May 5, 2006 – EPD issued an enforcement action involving the city’s sewer system. The city was fined $3,064 and required to remove an outfall pipe to prevent future discharges into Yellow Jacket Creek.

Two months before that third violation, on March 13, 2006, Kia and the state signed a contract for Kia to build its first North American automobile plant on a tract of more than 2,200 acres in West Point, according to a timeline on Kia’s website. The signers were then Gov. Sonny Perdue and Kia’s president at the time, E.S. Chung.

hogansville, locator map

Hogansville is located 50 miles south of Atlanta’s airport. Credit: mapquest.com, David Pendered

The Kia plant opened amid great fanfare on Feb. 26, 2010.

The EPD slammed Hogansville on June 14, 2010.

The city was cited for violating its permit to spray treated sewage on land; for improperly managing its land application system; for spilling sewage into state waters; and for exceeding its maximum daily flow effluent limits. The fine for these violations was $34,428.

As a reminder, the plant’s backers were touting its planned employment of 2,600 workers. The jobs became even more important as the state and nation plunged into the depths of the Great Recession. Tens of thousands applied for jobs at the plant.

Kia reported that 43,013 job applications were received in the first round, which closed Feb. 7. 2008. The second round closed May 7, 2010, with 44,507 applications received. The third round closed Nov. 14, 2011, with 45,745 applications received.

At the time, many of Hoganville residents were anything but financially secure, perhaps contributing to a lack of resources to properly operate the city’s wastewater system.

One in four of the town’s estimated 772 families were below the poverty level, according to a 2010 report by the Census. The proportion of high school dropouts was rising – among the age range of 18 years to 24 years, 48 percent had a high school degree or its equivalence and 3 percent had a bachelor’s degree; among the age range from 35 years to 44 years, 88 percent had at least a high school degree and 13 percent had a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The USDA announced Monday a loan of $2 million to the Hogansville Downtown Development agency to improve and expand the sewage treatment system. Previously, the federal government had provided a loan of $2.6 million and a grant of $2.5 million to improve and expand the system.

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

4 replies
  1. Emil Walcek says:

    Thank you for this news and historical context. The only thing missing is its potentially juicy epilogue. Perhaps that’s another story. The city’s infrastructure had major shortcomings long before the apparent prize of a major KIA manufacturing plant in 2010. Now our nation’s taxpayers are picking up the tab to fix a decades-old, local pain-point. Is the city now on the road to redemption? Is KIA proving to be a gift or grift to local and state economies?Report

    Reply
  2. Greg Hodges says:

    As noted, the Hogansville water treatment facility had been problematic for sometime before KIA even opened its plant 30 miles away at West Point, Ga . A check of US Census data shows that the town’s population was about 3,060 in 2010, when the new plant opened. The estimate for 2017 was 3,106 persons…. an increase of about 45 people…….hardly a “considerable growth” in residents, as proclaimed by the USDA. It appears that a couple of parts making facilities have opened in the Hogansville area….not sure how much they affect the town’s treatment system….they might even have their own water treatment mechanisms. At any rate, I would imagine that many small communities across the land receive federal grants for infrastructure upgrades every year. .Hogansville is not alone by a longshot.Report

    Reply
  3. Wormser Hats says:

    Yellow Jacket Creek through Hogansville was fouled-up decades-ago when the US Army Corps of Engineers dredged and severely entrenched the stream channel as it prepared nearby West Point Lake. The creek was effectively separated from many acres of floodplain and wetlands that would otherwise serve to attenuate floods and water-borne pollutants. Some of their remains can still be seen, today.

    I concur with those skeptical of the relationship between the pre-existing problems and the relatively recent arrival of KIA to the region that formerly boasted a large population employed in Troup County’s textile industries.

    It’s no that there isn’t a problem to be solved, it’s that there is a convenient lack of accountability for the long-term, root causes that include former federal investment in the degradation of what were once considered nuisance natural resources.Report

    Reply

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