After eight years of planning and hard work, Lula Water Reclamation Treatment Facility is up and running.
Lula officials say the project is expected to spur development in the eastern corridor of Hall County.
City Manager Dennis Bergin said more than 3,000 homes and 1 million square feet of commercial real estate has already been approved in the eight-mile area serviced by the plant near Ga. 365.
"(They) couldn't develop until this plant was operational," he said. "This is what government is supposed to do. We're supposed to build the infrastructure and encourage the private sector to get involved and do what they're supposed to do."
Lula Mayor Milton Turner said he was "thrilled" to see the facility operational. He said the area now has all the utilities it needs, and he expects rapid growth once the economy rebounds.
Since the beginning, Bergin said the plant was designed and constructed with one thing in mind - efficiency.
"I worry more about the operational component. If we open a facility that's not efficient or proficient, then we're not going to do a good job of it," he said. "I've built a number of facilities and this is the best one I've ever built."
Designers borrowed proven methods from other plants, incorporating them in a way that made the Lula facility one of the most efficient and ecologically friendly around, Bergin said.
"The technology is so much today and it's changed over the last 10 years significantly," he said.
"We monitor and maintain. Once we've established what the plant will do and we've optimized it and made it perfect, then all we do is sit back and monitor it."
The plant will operate with just two people and $180,000 annually.
Computers regulate most aspects of the water treatment process, sending alert messages to Bergin's phone whenever something goes wrong.
At first glance, you wouldn't expect the facility to be capable of cleaning nearly 385,000 gallons of water a day.
But with the help of various tanks, extensive plumbing, microorganisms and some natural processes, Bergin said the water that leaves the facility is at least 10 times cleaner than that already in Hagen Creek where they release.
"Not too shabby," Bergin added.
As the surrounding area develops, Bergin said the facility plans to expand and accommodate larger water loads.