Hillsborough town leaders will gather next week to celebrate “the sludge,” or rather the newly upgraded facility that takes of it.

At a project cost of $19.8 million, the expanded and renovated Hillsborough Wastewater Treatment Plant is more efficient and environmentally friendly, coming into compliance with the more stringent state rules.

Kenny Keel, Hillsborough Town Engineer and Utilities Director, said the facility hadn’t been upgraded since the 1970s.

The project, which began in October 2011, will help the Town move forward with new development by increasing the 36-year-old plant’s hydraulic treatment capacity, Keel said.

Renovations to the facility, which is located at 355 Elizabeth Brady Rd., were mostly completed in January. It now has the ability to treat 3 million gallons of waste water daily, which is the maximum permitted.

Keel said that the expansion allows the Town to meet the increasing demands of a growing population.

“It enables us to have that ability to serve new developments and any other sort of commercial or residential growth that bring money into the Town, increase our tax base, and help our Town overall to thrive,” Keel said.

Prior to the upgrade, the plant’s outdated technology and design prevented it from meeting the stricter state rules, known as the “Falls Lake Rules.”

Hillsborough is located within the lake’s watershed.

“It gives us the ability to have the plant operating superbly and have that extra capacity before those new rules kick in,” he said.

The Falls Lake Rules, which go into affect in 2016, are intended to protect and restore the water quality of Falls Lake, which is on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of impaired waters.

“The age of our plant and the Falls Lake Rules were the major drivers in needing to upgrade our plant.”

Specific improvements to the plant include new tertiary filters that are capable of removing nitrogen and phosphorous.

“Nitrogen and phosphorous are two of the main things that you need to treat for in this plant because those are nutrients that can cause issues at Falls Lake with algae blooms that happen within the lake itself,” Keel said.

A trash removal stage at the beginning of the process has also been implemented, and upgrades have been made to the biological treatment basins.

The new equipment can the handle wastewater bio solids, or sludge, so that it can be processed and sent to a composting facility to be mixed with yard waste to create fertilizer.

In the wake of toxic spills that happened in North Carolina this year, Keel said that he the new back up power generator will be essential in taking necessary prevention measures. The plant previously did not have a generator on site and relied on outside power feeds.

“It ensures that we keep the wastewater treatment process going and that we don’t have any bad sewer spills or any environmental issues stemming from a loss of power.”

Choate Construction Company of Atlanta, Ga., constructed the upgrades, which were funded largely by $18.2 million from the State Revolving Fund loan program. Debt payments will begin in Fiscal Year 2015, according to a Town news release.

Planning for a second phase of the plant upgrade will begin in 2015, with construction expected to start between fiscal years 2020 and 2030.


The ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil the Hillsborough Waste Water Treatment Facility is this Wednesday, April 23, at 10:00 a.m.

Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens, Town Manager Eric Peterson and Keel will speak at the ceremony.

The public is invited to take guided tours of the plant.