End of Lanier dispute: EPD issues permit for lake discharge

LAWRENCEVILLE - Six years of a battle over Lake Lanier could finally be over with the issuance of a new permit for Gwinnett to return treated wastewater to the north Georgia lake.

The Environmental Protection Division issued the new permit Friday for Gwinnett County's F. Wayne Hill Water Resources Center.

After an original permit was tied up in litigation, county officials met in mediation sessions with the Lake Lanier Association to settle on environmental limits.

Changes included lowering the phosphorus limit by 38 percent and placing the diffuser into the lake at a lower depth. When the lake is full, the depth of the outfall will be more than 100 feet.

"We appreciate the Lake Lanier Association's leadership in supporting this permit," Commission Chairman Charles Bannister said. "Gwinnett County and the LLA have the same goals when it comes to Lake Lanier. A clean and full lake is good for us all."

The Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District's long-term water resource planning asks for water to be returned to the lake, which, along with the Chattahoochee River, is the main drinking water supply for the Atlanta region. But litigation over the specific plan reached the Georgia Supreme Court.

Construction on the expansion of the plant is nearly complete, but a 9-mile pipeline from the center to Lake Lanier is designed but not yet built.

According to county officials, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to issue an easement for constructing the pipeline shortly. Construction duration is expected to be two years.

The Hill plant is currently permitted for a 29 million gallons per day discharge to the Chattahoochee River near Holcomb Bridge. The plant's capacity is 60 million gallons a day.

When the discharges to Lake Lanier begin, the 29 million gallons a day permit will be reduced, and 20 million gallons a day will continue to go to the river and 40 million gallons a day will go to the lake.