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County changes plans for North Hall sewer

Pump station could replace expected treatment plant, saving time and money

POSTED: December 4, 2013 12:19 a.m.

Hall County may save months and millions of dollars to provide sewer to the Ga. 365 corridor by not building a new sewer treatment plant in North Hall.

The Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District was expected to consider a request from county officials today to allow them to move up to 2 million gallons of wastewater treatment capacity from a planned reclamation plant in the Glades Farm area to a planned North Oconee wastewater treatment plant. Hall is considering building a pump station connected to Gainesville’s sewer system in a proposed commercial and residential development at a fraction of the cost to build a treatment facility.

Many of the cities in the county signed a letter objecting to the request because it would have meant taking water from the Chattahoochee River basin and discharging it into the North Oconee River basin, also known as an interbasin transfer. The cities included Gainesville, Clermont, Flowery Branch, Braselton, Gillsville, Oakwood and Buford.

“Each of our cities rely to some extent on the water withdraw permit Gainesville Public Utilities has for withdrawing water from Lake Lanier,” the letter states. “We do not want future withdraw requests to be subject to possible reductions or denials due to unnecessary interbasin transfers or insufficient returns of reclaimed water to the lake.”

The letter said it was likely future Oconee water demand will require an interbasin transfer and approving the Hall County request would increase the size of the transfer even if the Cedar Creek Reservoir was operational.

The water withdrawal permit for Cedar Creek has been fought over by Gainesville and Hall in their dispute over the ownership of the reservoir, a 141-acre lake off Timber Ridge Road in East Hall that was to provide drinking water. Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division is waiting for a resolution before issuing a new permit for the water supply.

Ken Rearden, county Public Works and Utilities director, said it wouldn’t be an interbasin transfer because Hall currently has the water withdrawal permit in the North Oconee Watershed that’s expected to ultimately result in the withdrawal of 7.5 million gallons per day.

Facing opposition from the cities and an opinion from EPD Director Jud Turner saying it would take the agency an additional six months to decide on the wastewater facility application, Rearden asked the water planning district to postpone the request late last month.

Hall is in talks with Barker Street LLC, the company pursuing the county’s permission to build Gateway Village across Ga. 365 from the Gateway Industrial Centre. The development was approved by the Hall County Planning Commission on Monday night.

The proposed master planned community is 476 acres, with a reserved area for a wastewater plant. County planning documents said there is no proposal of size or capacity of the proposed facility.

“Even more so, there are no proposed mitigation practices for the impacts of odor or noise that could result from the potential use,” the staff report said.

Rearden said the county has more than enough wastewater treatment capacity for the Ga. 365 corridor through its September agreement with Gainesville, so it doesn’t need to build a facility. That would save time and millions of dollars.

“The pump station will cost somewhere around a million dollars to build a pump station to handle 750,000 gallons a day,” he said. “And a plant would cost somewhere around $10 to $12 million dollars.”

Juliet Cohen, general counsel for the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, said the Georgia Water Coalition also opposed the county’s request and was pleased that amendment was postponed. The county can’t argue that an 850-acre reservoir is needed in the Upper Chattahoochee River Basin and argue to move water from the basin, she said.
“We hope that (the application) will be withdrawn,” Cohen said.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on the Gateway Village development on Dec. 12.


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