A new Forsyth County water treatment facility near Lake Lanier has brought up concerns for residents, and at a meeting this week, both county officials and neighbors discussed the issue.
Though not formally part of the regular meeting of the Forsyth County Commission on Thursday, Deputy County Manager Tim Merritt read a prepared statement regarding a planned water treatment plant at the end of Millwood Road in north Forsyth. Commissioners approved the purchase of 99.9 acres of land for the project for $3 million at a work session in September.
In his statement, Merritt said the county had been looking to build such a facility in northeast Forsyth since at least 2002 and that there were already similar facilities in Gwinnett County and Gainesville. Treated water is planned to be released into Chestatee Bay.
“Before [the Georgia Environmental Protection Division] approves the discharge location, they will use computer models to ensure the highly-treated reclaimed water will meet water standards for Lake Lanier,” Merritt said. “Although Georgia EPD has not provided standards that the treated water must meet or be cleaner, we expect that these will be at least equal to the Lake Lanier standards that Gwinnett and Gainesville are currently required to meet.”
He added the standards would be “likely the most stringent standards in Georgia” and would essentially be “cleaner than the raw water currently being pulled from Lake Lanier.”
Merritt said the facility would only be on about 25 acres of the land and the county was currently doing due diligence on the property. Construction is expected to start in 2020.
Returning water to the lake could also strengthen the county’s argument for pulling water out of the lake. Merritt said no tax increase would be needed to pay for the facility.
Since the announcement, neighbors have raised concerns tied to the project, even hosting a website (StopLanierSewage.org) to share information. According to the site, some of the main issues are with raw sewage spill, increased silt in Four Mile Creek, foul odors, noise pollution, increased traffic and light pollution.
Resident Art Thompson shared his concerns during a public comments portion of the meeting and said he was opposed to both the location and construction of the plant.
“We have been buying green space in Forsyth County, and I think we’re throwing it away here,” he said. “The increased water flow from the existing creek and development north will cause more and more erosion from the new construction … fluctuations in lake level are also heavily affected by this flow. As it comes through, mud flats erode and transport into the lake. Increased flow will make this worse.”
Neighbors have also raised concerns with potential spills, citing last month’s spilling of 188,000 gallons of stormwater and wastewater from a manhole into Big Creek.
Merritt said the county would be testing that stream for about a year to manage levels and said the wastewater was heavily diluted from the rain.
Neighbors and county officials will have another chance to discuss the issues next week. A meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Dec. 12, at the Forsyth County Administration Building, 110 E. Main Street, Cumming.
Merritt’s comments will be available at ForsythCo.com.