The federal grant, along with a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission and the One Georgia fund, will pay for much of the $2.5 million cost.
"Improving Cornelia’s wastewater treatment facility will help attract new businesses and allow existing businesses to expand their operations, boosting private sector investment in the community and creating new jobs for local citizens," said U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, who announced the grant this week from Washington.
"We’ve been told we’ve been approved for a couple of months, but we got the official approval letter Tuesday," said Cornelia City Manager Donald Anderson Jr. "It’s a very good Christmas present."
The city will pay $600,000 of the cost of the project.
The plant, which is about 40 years old, serves 1,410 customers.
The largest customer of the system is Fieldale Farms, which operates a poultry processing plant in Cornelia.
Andy Pilgrim, superintendent of the wastewater plant, said site preparation and bidding for the plant is currently under way, and he expects the improvements to be completed by the middle of 2009.
"We won’t be increasing our capacity," Pilgrim said. "We will be updating to better handle what is coming in now."
He described some portions of the existing plant as "archaic" and difficult to find replacement parts. The city has been renting a belt press to handle solids, which are removed and hauled to a landfill. The funding will allow the city to build a permanent building to house a new belt press.
Cornelia, like many cities, is under a mandate by the Environmental Protection Division to reduce phosphorus content by August 2009.