As one engineer put it, the recently completed expansion of the Forsyth County Water Treatment Plant is “awesome.”
Chris Carr of CH2MHill said the technical aspects of the larger facility excite the engineer in him.
Simply put though, the extra capacity and efficiency will provide many benefits to county water customers, Carr said during the plant’s expansion dedication ceremony Thursday.
The facility previously had enough capacity to treat 12 million gallons per day, he said, but is now capable of a maximum day of 28 million gallons.
The expansion was built with growth in mind, Carr said, so the county can respond quickly and cost-efficiently to future needs.
The plant’s new membrane technology will enhance the quality of treated water and increase efficiency in the process.
“We’re very well positioned today,” he said. “For the last two-plus years, we’ve worked very hard to get to this day and it’s very nice to see it come to fruition.”
The expansion project, headed by Garney Construction, cost about $20.3 million, which came in below the $21 million budget.
Tim Perkins, director of water and sewer, said the county is averaging about 11 million gallons per day treated in the expansion and about 2 million gallons daily in the plant’s older portion.
The maximum capacity won’t be realized for several years.
“Projects like this demonstrate the commitment and show the forward-thinking nature of Forsyth County when it comes to infrastructure and serving our citizens,” Perkins said.
Support from the commission has been crucial over the years, he noted, starting with a major decision in 1998 to use sales tax revenue to “run water throughout the county.”
Deputy director Barry Lucas said the department first brought the plant expansion request to the commission in March 2009 at a time of many uncertainties, and not just in the economy.
He cited the so-called “tri-state water wars,” or the litigation between Alabama, Florida and Georgia on rights to water from Lake Lanier, as reaching a peak at that time.
A 2009 judge’s ruling left Forsyth County unsure how much, if any, water could be drawn from the lake.
“We also had the long-term county and city water contracts that were coming to expiration in a couple years,” Lucas said.
“All of those things threw a lot of unknowns into this plans. And with an estimated price tag of over $20 million, I don’t think that was an easy decision for the board to make, but they made the right decision, obviously, because today the plant is running.”
The county and the city of Cumming renegotiated their water contracts last year, which included a reduction in the amount of treated water the county must purchase.
Forsyth has a permit allocation from the Georgia Environmental Protection, but no way to draw water from Lake Lanier.
As a result, it purchases most of its untreated as well as some treated water from Cumming.
Lucas said the county expects to save more than $100,000 in buying untreated water from the city due to the expansion’s increased efficiency.
Combined with conservation effort, more than 600,000 gallons of water per day should be saved in processing at the new plant, he said.
Commission Chairman Pete Amos said he couldn’t comment on the complex mechanics of the plant — “All I know is it goes in dirty and comes out clean” — but did know that Forsyth produces quality drinking water.
“The expansion of this plant represents Forsyth County’s commitment to providing superior water and sewer services to our citizens,” Amos said.