Flowery Branch is working to get what the city hopes will be its last state permit to operate a small sewer plant at Cinnamon Cove, a condominium complex about three miles from town.
The South Hall city is moving forward on plans to eventually shut down the facility and reroute sewer to its main treatment plant off Atlanta Highway, a move designed to help spur development in the area.
"We think it's good for (Lake Lanier) and for future growth," City Manager Bill Andrew said.
The city finished a 30-day public comment period in October on the city's request for a permit from the state Environmental Protection Division.
"The main concern EPD had about renewing the permit was what was the schedule for us to take (the Cinnamon Cove plant) offline," Andrew said.
Permit approval could take place in about 45 days, he added.
If all goes as planned, the city hopes to move forward next year on a $1.8 million project that involves building two pump stations, one at Cinnamon Cove and the other off Bell Drive, or near Gaines Ferry and McEver Roads.
The project also entails installing a sewer line from Cinnamon Cove down Gaines Ferry Road to Atlanta Highway, crossing McEver Road. It then would run north to the main sewer plant.
The lines would run a total of 19,000 feet, or about 3« miles.
The city's special purpose local option sales taxes would pay for about $1.3 million of the costs, with the remaining amount from the city's water and sewer fund.
Construction could start in the spring, with the work taking about nine months, City Planner James Riker said.
"The properties that (the Cinnamon Cove plant) treats for are not the same technology that we use at (the main) plant, so essentially what's being discharged to Lake Lanier after this project is done will be significantly better than what's being discharged there today," Riker said.
The project began when city officials recognized "we were running out of sewer capacity in South Hall based on the growth patterns that we saw happening four years ago," Andrew said.
What opened eyes was the requests for sewer around the Stonebridge Village development at Interstate 985 and Spout Springs Road.
"We began looking at how we could expand the (sewer) plant," Andrew said.
Because the federal Environmental Protection Agency had declared Lake Lanier an "impaired waterway," no new phosphorus could flow into the lake. Excessive phosphorus can cause algae to proliferate.
"What that meant for us we had to go an existing phosphorus user, which was Cinnamon Cove," Andrew said.
"Cinnamon Cove has a phosphorus load of so many pounds per year that they were using because they don't treat for phosphorus in their plant," he said. "They use a sand-filtered plant that's outdated."
Flowery Branch's plant, meanwhile, "very carefully removes" phosphorus.
In taking over Cinnamon Cove, "the same amount of phosphorus will be going into Lake Lanier but it will be diluted considerably to our plant, so we can treat exponentially more gallons of water through our plant," Andrew said.
The sewer expansion wasn't intended as a move to annex outlying areas, including Cinnamon Cove and Four Seasons neighborhoods.
"We have no interest in that all," Andrew said.