Gainesville's public utilities staff plans to offer sewer service to two Hall County islands within city limits, pending customer interest.
The sewer extension project would help with septic tank issues in two pocket areas near Pearl Nix Parkway, said Kelly Randall, director of public utilities.
"We get calls from the health department about septic issues ... and there are quite a number out there," he said. "Those lots have been there a long time, and the lot sizes are not up to today's standards. They wouldn't be able to get a septic permit now because if a septic drain fails, there's not sufficient land to put another."
The project is part of the public utilities department's five-year capital improvements plan, which annually designates money for extension of the sanitary sewer system.
"These onsite sewage systems were designed initially to work for many years until sewer came, but it hasn't come to all areas," said Pat Braswell, manager of the Hall County Environmental Health Department. "Where we have a high water table, questionable soil or over-usage of water that exceeds what the system was designed for, there are going to be problems. Water usage wasn't that great many years ago."
The department has noted several pages of complaints about failing septic tanks. The proposed improvements would include parts of Airport Drive, Ralston Street, Hazel Street and Rider Drive north of Pearl Nix Parkway, and Mount Crest Drive and McConnell Drive south of Pearl Nix.
"It's been the case throughout the years that we receive complaints in areas that have dense populations," Braswell said. "We have trouble repairing these areas. When the homes were built, developers weren't thinking about providing space to replace the septic systems down the road."
Public utilities staff presented the expansion idea to Gainesville City Council members last week to gauge interest.
"We would like to get your blessing to move forward with this project," said Myron Bennett, the permitting services manager for public utilities.
"The health department was excited to hear about this ... It would help with the septic tanks plus give people an incentive to apply for sewer and annex into the city and hopefully reduce these island areas."
Council members are looking for explicit interest before investing in the project.
"We need to contact the property owners to see if they are interested," said Mayor Pro Tem Danny Dunagan. "We need to see what kind of interest we've got before we go out and spend money and no one has interest. We've done enough of that."
After staff members survey the two areas, they can report back to council members with a proposal.
"As long as they express their own interest, I say move forward," said council member Myrtle Figueras.
The move could bring in more than 115 new customers, Bennett said.
"Many of these areas are rental homes, so it's harder to get the owner's contact information, but we plan to send letters to the property owners and try to solve this public health issue," Randall said. "The island issue comes up every few years, and this is a way to make the problem smaller and offer a service that area doesn't normally receive."