Forsyth County residents and members of an environmental advocacy organization weighed in Thursday night on a proposed new wastewater discharge into the Chattahoochee River.
An application for the permit is being reviewed by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, which conducted the hearing at the county administration building to gather community feedback.
Tim Perkins, the county’s water and sewer director, said questions raised at the hearing were nothing that had not already been considered or addressed.
There have been plans in place since 1995 for the discharge, according to Perkins.
Perkins said future considerations over the amount of wastewater that’s expected to be generated in the county have prompted action on the matter.
He said the plan is also in line with state goals. “The state has a goal to return almost 60 percent of the used water to the river. It’s what they expect counties to do.”
Perkins said the proposed discharge would come from an existing facility, the Fowler treatment plant off Hwy. 9.
“Expanded flow from there would be discharged with the first phase,” he said, adding that the second phase of the project would involve building another treatment plant at the county’s Shakerag site.
Shakerag is currently used as an irrigation site for reused water that comes from 11 miles of underground piping.
“All that infrastructure is already in place,” Perkins said.
“When we irrigate with the reused water, a lot of it ends up evaporating, so that effectively takes away from return flow. Returning this water to the river extends the supply of water to Florida and Alabama.”
That was one of the reasons for Suwanee resident Scott Adams’ support of the project. He lives directly across the river from where the plant would be located.
“It’s important to get water back into the river where it can be used by downstream users and maintain good stream flows,” Adams said.
Juliet Cohen, a member of Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, was concerned that the water returned to the river would not be safe for the environment.
“We are concerned that the draft permit does not go far enough to prevent pollution and to maintain existing uses of the river,” she said.
Perkins said if the discharge were going to negatively affect the river, “We wouldn’t be getting this far with it.”
“Before they even let you get to the stage in the process we’re at, they run water quality models on the river and determine whether it’s safe to put in the river without harming the environment. That study was done four years ago,” Perkins said.
If approved, both phases of the project would take about two years to complete.