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Big day for Lake Lanier
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Forsyth County News
Lake Lanier last week saw an event of historic proportions, and it wasn’t directly related to the drought that kept lake levels in the news for two years, nor the rains which have restored it to full pool.

On Wednesday, Gwinnett County opened the pipes to begin discharging millions of gallons of treated wastewater into the reservoir. When operating at full permitted capacity, Gwinnett will be allowed to pump 40 million gallons a day back into the lake from its wastewater treatment plant.

The return of the treated wastewater to Lanier is signficant for several reasons, not the least of which is that it culminates an effort that was more than a decade long in reaching completion.

When Gwinnett was granted a discharge permit for the lake in 2000, local advocates, through the Lake Lanier Association, filed legal action over the volume of wastewater being returned to the lake. When the group was victorious in the state’s Supreme Court, Gwinnett agreed to make major
changes in its plans for treating the water before returning it to Lanier.

The end result is that the water being pumped back into Lake Lanier has much stricter phosphorous restrictions than has been the case in the past.

The standards set for the new Lanier discharges are likely to be the new benchmark for returning wastewater to the lake, and as old plants are retired and new plants come online, the quality of discharges is likely to be much improved.

The law suit also resulted in Gwinnett placing its discharge pipe deeper into Lanier than originally proposed, thus reducing the potential for negative impact on water quality even more.

There currently are six other facilities that dump treated wastewater back into Lanier, but none handles near the volume of the new Gwinnett pipeline, which cost some $72 million to build.

In the past, Gwinnett pumped 20 million gallons a day into the Chattahoochee River below the lake. Now, that water will be returned to the reservoir instead.

For Lake Lanier, the ultimate impact is a new standard for treatment of wastewater and the return of a significant volume of water to the lake which otherwise would be lost to the reservoir.

And that should be good news for all who border Lake Lanier or appreciate it’s scenic beauty and economic vitality.