Treated sewage to be sent to Chattahoochee

LAWRENCEVILLE - Until it builds a pipeline to Lake Lanier, Gwinnett County will send more wastewater to the Chattahoochee River.

A permit recently issued by the state Environmental Protection Division OK'd the daily discharge of 9 million gallons of highly treated sewage into the river that forms the county's western border and serves as a major source of drinking water and recreation for metro Atlanta.

The temporary river discharge will give the county time to finish a pipeline that will carry effluent to Lake Lanier from a $450 million expansion under way at the F. Wayne Hill Water Resources Center near Buford.

"It bridges the time between now and when we can get the pipeline built to return water to Lake Lanier," said county Public Utilities Director Frank Stephens.

The pipeline was delayed by a lawsuit filed by Lake Lanier advocates in a bid to halt the lake discharge, and more recently by a delay in finalizing a new discharge permit for Lake Lanier, Stephens said.

Without the temporary river discharge, the county because of its population and business growth could end up with more wastewater than it is permitted to release, Stephens said.

The pipe is expected to be ready in two to three years, after which the additional river discharge would be stopped.

The county is already permitted to send up to 20 million gallons per day to the river from the Hill plant, via a 20-mile pipe that runs from the plant to the Chattahoochee River near Holcomb Bridge Road in Norcross.

The additional 9 million gallons would flow through the 48-inch-diameter pipe, which roughly parallels Peachtree Industrial Boulevard.

The river permit issued by EPD in late January requires the county to treat the effluent to higher standards that apply to Lake Lanier, instead of to lower standards that apply to the river.

In November, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down a discharge permit the EPD gave Gwinnett in 2000 so it could send 40 million gallons of wastewater per day from the Hill plant expansion to Lake Lanier.

Afterwards, EPD issued a new discharge permit for Lake Lanier, but with higher treatment standards. The previous treatment standards were challenged by the Lake Lanier Association.