The growing plans for development in south Forsyth haven’t yet placed a burden on the sewer system, though the county hopes to start construction of the Shakerag wastewater treatment plant soon.
A committee is reviewing the bids and hopes the commission will be able to award a contract before year’s end, said Tim Perkins, the county’s director of water and sewer.
The project will take about two years to complete, according to Perkins.
“Back when things were booming, we would have expected to have it finished by now,” he said. “Of course, the growth slowed down and it slowed down a lot of the demand also, so it worked out.”
With the return of development, the capacity in the southern Dicks Creek basin has come under question with the relief of Shakerag not yet on the way.
“That is putting a little stress on capacity,” Perkins said. “Currently, we’re bypassing flow to Fulton County, and it’s more expensive to have to do that.”
The permit needed for discharge at the Shakerag plant is being processed at the Georgia Environmental Protection Division following a years-long legal battle.
In 2010, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper challenged the permit the county received from the EPD. The environmental advocacy group argued that the allowable pollutant levels for the discharge into the Chattahoochee were "unnecessarily weak."
Litigation effectively ended in March, when the Georgia Supreme Court declined to hear Riverkeeper’s appeal to the previous ruling favorable to the county.
Perkins said the EPD is still processing the permit.
“We could start construction [on Shakerag] without the permit, but we’d rather have the permit,” Perkins said, “so we’re kind of waiting on that.”
The EPD gave its “blessing” on the permit, he said, which allowed the commission to feel comfortable to continue moving forward with zoning applications for planned development in the area.
Perkins added that a construction project may take years, and additional wastewater isn’t generated until developments are complete.
Commissioner Brian Tam said he’s comfortable with the availability and future planning for sewer in the south Forsyth area, which is the district he represents.
If the need arises, the county has installed “temporary pump stations” in the past to divert flow to other areas where it can be treated, Tam said.
He also said the commission had explored the idea of reopening the Cauley Creek wastewater treatment facility in Johns Creek.
“Staff assessed the plant and made a presentation to the board of commissioners,” Tam said, “and we feel our best option at this point is to continue with the Shakerag plant.”
The Cauley Creek water reclamation facility, off Bell Road just south of the Forsyth line, had been operating under contract with Fulton County until about a year ago, when that board terminated its agreement.
Perkins said the plant wasn’t the “quick fix” for capacity that it may have appeared to be.
”At least at this stage, it’s not on the table,” Perkins said. “It was going to take a lot of construction and there’s not a permit that goes along with that facility.”
The need for immediate relief hasn’t hit, he said, but the department continues to monitor the situation in growing south Forsyth.
“I don’t think the board’s to a point where they’re going to have to, on a sewer standpoint, have to turn down zonings yet,” Perkins said. “But it may mean they have to build a pump station or infrastructure to take the wastewater to Fulton County for treatment until our plant gets finished.”