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Lanier group moves along on water quality issue
Lake Lanier Stakeholders, EPD to meet Thursday
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Lake Lanier Stakeholders meeting

When: 10 a.m. to noon Thursday

Where: Unicoi State Park, 1788 Ga. 356, Helen

The future of Lake Lanier’s water quality is on tap Thursday at a meeting at Unicoi State Park in Helen.

Lake Lanier Stakeholders, a fledgling group largely comprising public utility officials, is set to hold its third meeting from 10 a.m. to noon with the state Environmental Protection Division, over developing water standards for the lake.

Data concerning current discharges into the lake are set to be presented, fashioned mostly in “pie charts and maybe a map or two,” said Adam Hazell, planning director at the Gainesville-based Georgia Mountains Regional Commission.

But the meeting may evolve into “a larger discussion about what can we do now to make progress on a particular issue,” he said.

The GMRC and the Atlanta Regional Commission are helping to direct efforts.

The group, which kicked off in a September meeting in Gwinnett County, is focusing largely on the EPD’S development of a “total maximum daily load” and the Army Corps of Engineers’ update of its water control manual.

TMDL “is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can receive and still safely meet water quality standards,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

And those numbers “may impact utilities, local governments and other stakeholders,” according to a written summary of the lake group’s first meeting.

The group held its second meeting in November in Hall County.

In 2008, Lake Lanier was placed on an “impaired waters” list, pushing to the forefront the need for a TMDL “for the pollutant of concern, which, in this case, is chlorophyll-a,” said Juliet Cohen, general counsel for Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, an Atlanta-based environmental advocacy group.

Chlorophyll-a indicates the level of potentially harmful algae growth.

Ron Peters, deputy director of Gwinnett County’s water resources department, has said the EPD “really would like to work with stakeholders to help develop that TMDL, because some people have almost no load, or proportionately almost no load, in the lake and others have very large loads of pollutants.

“And if a TMDL is written, it will affect anyone who is in the watershed.”

The process includes identifying point and nonpoint sources. Point sources, such as utility discharges, tend to be more identifiable than nonpoint sources, such as septic tanks and runoff.

However, “there are methods to address (nonpoint sources), which is essentially trying to create policies that make sure land development and land use is mindful of stormwater runoff,” Hazell has said.

Liz Booth of the EPD plans to talk about both sources in a presentation at Thursday’s meeting, according to the ARC.

Don Dye, Gaineville’s assistant public utilities director, said he appreciates the EPD’s efforts in trying to get feedback from governments and others around the lake.

“I’ve been in the water business in Georgia for 15 years ... and I’ve never really seen an outreach on EPD’s side similar to this,” he said.

The agency “really seems to want genuine input and (is) not wanting to just come up with regulations that may or may not be easy to obtain.”