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Habersham sewer plant condemned near Lake Lanier
City of Cumming voices plans to take over, expand

The city of Cumming has plans to take over a private sewer facility in east Forsyth near Lake Lanier and replace it with something much bigger.

At a mid-April meeting of the Cumming City Council, councilmembers voted unanimously to condemn the Habersham Wastewater Treatment Facility just off Buford Dam Road and surrounding properties. City Utilities Director Jon Heard said the city plans to replace the current facility with a state-of-the-art facility.

“The city is working currently and has been working with the EPD for several years on a lake discharge facility, and this will be the first step toward the ultimate facility of 15 million gallons per day of highly-treated wastewater to be discharged back into Lake Lanier,” Heard said.

Heard said wastewater from homes goes to the plant where it is treated and released into the lake, which Forsyth County and much of the region uses for drinking water, and the existing facility does not meet state standards.

“Currently, the requirements of that plan are very lax, for lack of a better term,” Heard said. “Wastewater that’s generated and treated through a wastewater treatment facility and discharged into the lake should meet state wastewater treatment standards and Lake Lanier water quality standards and, currently, the facility does not meet those standards.”

The existing facility sits on 10 acres just off Buford Dam Road and serves about 400 residents in the Habersham subdivision. The system dates to the 1970s, when it was more common for large neighborhoods to build their own due to a lack of infrastructure.

Matters surrounding the plant have previously been the center of legal and political issues.

The new facility would first take on about 111,000 gallons per day and a second phase would reach 7.5 million gallons per day. The 15-million-gallons-per-day plant is the ultimate goal and is slated for about 2050.

Heard said the city is looking at what needs to be done and estimated the facility alone would cost $2.5-$3 million.

Earlier this month, a small shed holding the facility’s main sewage pump caught fire, which Heard said factored into the city’s decision.

“In light of the fire at the Habersham Wastewater pumping station and the action taken by the Habersham Action Committee to install a pump in their manhole and discharge untreated wastewater into the city’s sewer system and their inability to purchase a new pump and repair the system … the city needed to move in and take the facility over to avoid any kind of environmental catastrophe of a sewer spill in Lake Lanier,” Heard said.

Heard said he did not know how long untreated water has been being dumped into city sewers.

George Butler, attorney for Habersham Action Committee, the group that operates the plant, did not have a comment as of press time.