This Water Plant Has a Unique Design and an Operations Team With an Exemplary Performance Record

This Water Plant Has a Unique Design and an Operations Team With an Exemplary Performance Record

The Tussahaw Water Plant treats up to 16.1 mgd in a conventional process.

Interested in Treatment?

Get Treatment articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Treatment + Get Alerts

The Tussahaw Water Plant has achieved a compliance record that many would envy.

This conventional surface water plant, owned by the Henry County Water Authority in Jackson, Georgia, has a unique building design. Since it was commissioned in 2007, its operations team has recorded water quality results that go above and beyond.

The approach is based on tried and true methods but applied with the latest technologies, while taking full advantage of on-site laboratory services. A strong leadership team and culture of communication enables this large facility (16.1 mgd capacity) to perform at consistently optimal levels.


The Tussahaw plant was created to serve growing needs in Henry County. Before it came online, its sister facility, the Towaliga plant in the western part of the county, served the utility’s entire territory. The newer plant’s primary source is the Tussahaw Reservoir. Systemwide storage includes four in-ground tanks and nine elevated tanks holding a combined 29.5 million gallons.

The treatment process is considered conventional, but it has unique design characteristics, most notably its architecture. Instead of a series of single-story structures and the large footprint that requires, Tussahaw houses all operations in a three-story building designed with aesthetics in mind. The bulk storage tanks are not outside in a traditional tank-farm configuration, but inside the structure, which upon approach gives the impression of an office building.

This configuration is also more convenient and comfortable for the operators because all maintenance and operations take place indoors, and team members don’t have to travel from one building to another. That’s desirable during Georgia’s common rainy and hot weather. The building is home to not just plant operations but to administration and the comprehensive compliance testing lab.

The plant is operated around the clock in 12-hour shifts by Class I operators Brandon Dubbs, Steve Ledbetter, Michael Curry, Wayman Cody, Mike Bryant and Teresa Swan, and Class II operators Tammy Hawkins and Chad Hitzeman. Barry Brand leads them as operations supervisor.


One might describe the plant’s treatment methods as conservative, but with a twist. “We have modern equipment, but we use older techniques such as alum, sodium permanganate and periodically pre-lime to adjust pH and alkalinity,” says Brand.

The process oxidizes minerals, iron and manganese and creates floc that settles in large basins. The water is then filtered and bleach, lime, Carus Aqua Mag blended phosphate and fluoride are added. The finished water is stored in a clearwell and then sent to the storage tanks, from which it is pumped to the distribution system.

“All in all, it’s a standard process,” says Brand. “We like it because it’s tried and true and reliable, and among the team there’s a lot of institutional or industrial knowledge of its use.”

The plant is in a transition process to enable the delivery of more water from the Tussahaw water zone, which is in a low-lying point of the county, out into the county’s far reaches. At present there are two pressure zones: Towaliga in the east and Tussahaw in the west. Pump stations move water in from one zone to the other. The goal is to move more water from the Tussahaw zone to the Towaliga zone as the eastern part of the county grows.


The Tussahaw plant doesn’t experience extreme treatment issues, but its reservoir, like many in the Southeast, is low alkalinity with low turbidity. This can be challenging to treat for iron and manganese, which can cause discoloration, taste and odors in the finished product.

The plant sees seasonal fluctuations with reservoir turnover; iron and manganese reach elevated levels in fall. This requires the operators to adjust the treatment regime, typically by adding lime ahead of the filters.

The plant has awards including 2021 Best Operated Plant (Large Plant Category) from the Georgia Association of Water Professionals. It has achieved 15 consecutive years of perfect compliance with Georgia Environmental Protection Division requirements.

Explaining that level of consistency, Brand observes, “We test more than requirements call for. Our operators are exceptionally good at looking for and spotting trends. When they see a trend starting to develop in reservoir water quality or at the facility, we work on that long before it has a chance to become a permit issue.”

All this testing requires great laboratory facilities. Tussahaw has two labs. The process-control lab is used by operators for testing of the water from the reservoir, through the facility and out to customers. The compliance lab performs microbiological testing in the distribution system and monitoring of the reservoir anomalies or issues such as algae growth that may be coming to the plant.


Brand’s team is also assisted by sophisticated operations software MVP Plant from CMMS Data Group. This computerized maintenance management software tracks all the operations, equipment, and maintenance. New equipment is entered into the program and a schedule for preventive maintenance is set for it.

The program generates work orders to schedule PM tasks and any corrective maintenance that may be needed. Data from the system allows Brand and his team to see if a given piece of equipment is having more repairs than normal or is costing too much to keep it operational. They can also monitor trends to determine when a device may have a high potential for failure.

“This data and history will prompt us to investigate why a particular item is having so many issues,” says Brand. “It might be that it’s simply at the end of its life cycle and needs to be replaced.”

The county has a 30-year master plan that includes both water plants and helps guide plans for growth and needed updates. Data from the MVP software helps the county stay on target and adjust if something needs to be addressed or replaced earlier than scheduled in the plan.

The utility engages consultants periodically to evaluate and make recommendations based on growth in the area. The service territory, in the South Metro area of Atlanta, is growing rapidly, and they watch carefully for equipment or infrastructure that will be needed to accommodate growth over the next 30 years.

The Tussahaw facility, designed as a 12 mgd plant, was upsized to 16.1 mgd without any capital expenditure. To do this, Brand and his team conducted a study of higher flows and higher rates through the facility, collected the data and submitted it to the local office of the state Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division. The staff there determined that the plant could handle the extra flow and so revised its permit.


With all its tools, the laboratories, great facility design and support from its governing authority, Brand attributes the plant’s success and recognition to its operators and their communication. “Keeping everyone on the same page is often a challenge,” he says. “So I use everything available to me, such as operator logbooks and whiteboards in every room and hallway. That way, operators who encounter any issue can put a note at that spot.”

Tagged emails, phone calls and in-person visits are also used, but most important is the follow-up by Brand to make sure everyone has received the message and is on the same page. That is the key to keeping things running optimally over the multiple shifts and around-the-clock operation.

“Talk to the operators and not at them,” Brand advises. “Encourage feedback, even when it’s unpleasant. That way you can have an open dialogue where you’re not offended if someone tells you you’re doing something wrong. You can make a correction before there’s a permit violation.”

Tussahaw’s team has that level of communication; the team is consistently able to act before there is a costly problem. Taking ownership and pride in the product is the glue that holds all the elements together to keep this plant among the best in its class.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.