The issue of sludge application is expected to go before lawmakers when the Georgia General Assembly convenes next year.
State Rep. Kevin Tanner, a Republican from Dawsonville whose 9thDistrict includes part of north Forsyth, said he plans to introduce legislation that would change the state law during the next session.
“I already have it drafted, the bill, and will be introducing it in the upcoming session,” he said during a recent address to the Rotary Club of Dawson County.
The debate over sludge application started more than a year ago when developer Ken Curren filed an application with the state Environmental Protection Division to amend the Hampton Creek Water Reclamation Facility sludge management plan.
According to the application, Curren wanted to spread partially treated liquid waste from the Forsyth plant on about 65 acres at Lumpkin Campground and Harry Sosebee roads in Dawson County.
The site is within one mile of 15 percent of Dawson's population and the busy Ga. 400 corridor, which includes the North Georgia Premium Outlets, the county's largest source of sales tax revenue.
“I was county manager at the time and what really raised my radar was that we as a state require local governments to present a land use plan to the department of community affair,” Tanner said. “We’re requiring [this] but yet someone could apply directly to the state to the EPD director and get the permit to put land application sludge in a community without the local government having anything to say about it.”
Tanner’s bill would require those seeking sludge application permits to go before the respective city or county governments and show they are in compliance with land-use ordinances or zoning requirements.
Applicants also would be required to hold any public hearings related to the application in the jurisdiction where the sludge would be applied.
“That’s one of the other things that we saw,” he said. “They could hold the hearings somewhere else and not be in the area with the citizens it was going to affect. The people that it is going to affect need to have a voice in those decisions.”
An agreement was reached earlier this year for Etowah Water and Sewer Authority to treat waste from a plant in neighboring Forsyth.
Tanner has spent the last year working with EPD officials, who he said are in support of the bill.
“One of the things I understand from having watched state government and now being involved in it, is it’s very difficult to get a bill passed in the General Assembly when you don’t have the support of the department it’s going to affect,” he said. “EPD is in support of the bill I’ve drafted.
“I’m hopeful the bill will be successful. We do have the department’s support, and we ‘re hoping to move forward with that.”
The 2014 General Assembly begins on Jan. 13.