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Costs mount in legal fight over sewer permit
County joins EPD to battle Riverkeeper
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Forsyth County News

Other business

Also Tuesday, the Forsyth County commission:

• Adopted resolutions for midyear budget adjustments involving juror fees and court interpreters, totaling $26,500, for the state and superior courts. The money will come from the county's general fund reserves.

• Approved new hours for the Central Park Recreation Center, which will take effect April 1, in an effort to cut costs.

• Allowed a county-initiated rezoning of the Buckhorn property from agricultural to industrial to move forward for a public hearing, likely on Dec. 16. The vote was 3-1, with Commissioner Brian Tam opposed.

Note: All votes were 4-0, with Chairman Charles Laughinghouse absent, unless otherwise noted.

-- Alyssa LaRenzie

Forsyth County commissioners on Tuesday authorized an additional $100,000 toward legal fees in a battle over a recently approved state discharge permit.

The Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper filed a petition in September appealing a Forsyth County wastewater permit issued in August by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

The group took exception to the maximum levels of contaminants the permit allowed.

In a move to protect its own interest, Forsyth has since joined the suit on the side of the EPD, County Attorney Ken Jarrard said.

The funding approved Tuesday doubles the original amount of $100,000, which Jarrard said the law firm representing the county has already spent.

"I would request that you authorize another $100,000 to protect and defend the county's honor in a discharge permit that we very, very, very much want," Jarrard said.

The full amount approved by a 4-0 vote Tuesday, with Chairman Charles Laughinghouse absent, may not be needed, Jarrard said.

Commissioner Patrick Bell reluctantly approved the expense, which will draw money from a water and sewer fund set aside for these type of issues.

"There's no way around it," Bell said. "Everybody [involved with approving the permit] has said this is what needs to be done, yet we have one person who says it's not done right and the taxpayers have to spend $200,000 to defend that."

The county hired King & Spalding to represent it. Jarrard said the selection was smart, given the firm's expertise in the field.

Patricia Barmeyer, the lead attorney for the county in the case, is the head of the firm's environmental practice group in Atlanta.

Riverkeeper sued the EPD, contending the approved permit allowed maximum levels of contaminants that are too high and undermine what the facility can achieve.

Deputy County Manager Tim Merritt had said that the limits set are similar to those required of other counties.

The permit grants the county the ability to release 6 million gallons per day of treated water from its Fowler wastewater facility into the Chattahoochee River.

The facility in south Forsyth currently discharges about 3 mgd, but the additional capacity for Fowler and the planned Shakerag plant are intended to serve future needs.