The water and sewer needs of the Novo Nordisk expansion near Clayton will be that of a small town.
Because of that size, Johnston County Commissioners and the Clayton Town Council have formed the Western Johnston Regional Water and Sewer Authority, which will operate a pre-treatment plant along the pharmaceutical campus on U.S. 70 Business.
A four-member board made up of two county commissioners and two Clayton council members will govern the authority. Clayton Town Manager Steve Biggs said the plant would be built specifically to pre-treat waste from Novo Nordisk and any possible future pharmaceutical companies.
“This is a special-purpose authority dealing just with the pre-treatment needs,” Biggs said. “This creates a structure suitable for that purpose. The facility will not benefit the entirety of the customer base of Clayton or Johnston County.”
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Town and county leaders have said the prospect of the pre-treatement facility is one reason Clayton stayed competitive for and ultimately won the $1.8 billion Novo Nordisk expansion last year. Without the pre-treatment step, waste from the insulin manufacturer would be too strong for Johnston County’s sewage-treatment capabilities.
The pre-treatment plant attracted one of the largest grants ever paid out to Johnston County by the Golden Leaf Foundation, $4 million awarded last year for the plant’s construction. The current estimate for the plant’s cost is $18-20 million.
The authority also creates a legal body to shoulder the debt of such a facility. Biggs said it would be inappropriate for the town or county to carry the debt of a facility used by only a few customers.
“It’s important to segregate financial responsibilities,” Biggs said. “If you think about a metaphor in the private sector, it’s similar to forming an LLC in some ways. The authority is going to own assets, provide services and may need to take on debt. That debt would be limited to its customers and served through its charges.”
County Manager Rick Hester said Clayton will still sell the water and Johnston will ultimately treat the waste. But the authority will operate or contract out the day-to-day running of the pre-treatment plant.
“It would be difficult to put these obligations on the county or town,” Hester said.
Drew Jackson; 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson