Gainesville and Hall County are looking to partner on purchasing a litter trap for Flat Creek, one of the most polluted streams in the region, in an effort to improve water quality and spare Lake Lanier a growing mess.
“It’s just incredible the volume of trash that comes into Lake Lanier” from Flat Creek, said Gainesville Water Resources Director Kelly Randall, “particularly after a large rainfall.”
The 6-mile tributary courses through the city’s industrial area, past several poultry processing plants and residential neighborhoods on its way to a Lanier cove west of McEver Road.
Flat Creek had the highest fecal coliform count in 2014 at 811 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters of water, based on a geometric mean of 15 samples taken that year. The recreational standard is 200 per 100 milliliters.
And Pilgrim’s Pride was cited by the Environmental Protection Agency last year for violations of the Clean Water Act after sending pollutants into Flat Creek. Floating fats were found entering the city’s wastewater system, for example.
“Flat Creek, as a whole, flows in and out of both the city of Gainesville and Hall County, so the county has a vested interest in its overall health,” said Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley. “In addition, pollutants in Flat Creek ultimately flow into Lake Lanier, one of Hall County's greatest assets. Therefore, this initiative will help clean up the lake, which is in the best interest of our entire region.”
The county and city have agreed to an initial 60-40 split on the $174,000 cost of purchasing and installing the “Bandalong Litter Trap,” which is designed by Storm Water Systems Inc., located in Cleveland, Ga.
That estimate includes the construction of a parking lot and educational display. Officials believe the trap can be an informative lesson for school field trips and those interested in environmental issues.
The trap will be installed just below the bridge along Old Flowery Branch Road near the Flat Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Officials said they chose this location because it is below most of the developed sections of the creek and the city owns property on both sides of the tributary at this spot.
Randall said the traps have proven effective for other local governments in the state in collecting substantial amounts of litter.
The trap consists of booms that funnel trash into a basket or cage, which can then be removed and its contents disposed of.
Much of the trash is recyclable, Randall said.
Because the trap floats, some litter might slip through, but most should be stopped before it continues to flow further downstream.
“All it really picks up is floatables,” Randall said. “So if there’s a can or something that’s already submerged and sunk, it’ll go right underneath (the trap).”
Randall said he expects the city and county to soon approve an intergovernmental agreement to purchase the trap.
But officials said clean-up patrols will still be necessary, though installing the trap presents a new opportunity to increase awareness about the impact trash has on Flat Creek’s water quality and aquatic life.
“I have to say this is a marvelous addition … Keep Hall Beautiful has a special interest in this,” said Councilman George Wangemann.
A Rivers Alive campaign cleans up trash along Flat Creek every year, and the next litter patrol event is scheduled for the last Saturday in September.
“It takes a village to clean up Flat Creek,” Wangemann said. “If we don’t, no one else will.”