Rome and Cartersville officials have registered formal concerns with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about the plans to withdraw 40 million gallons of water a day from the Etowah River below Lake Allatoona.
At issue: A limited county sewer system. That means most of the used water would drain from individual septic tanks into the Chattahoochee River basin, instead of being returned to the Coosa River basin.
The Coalition — a group of 175 conservation, business and faith-based organizations — cites the effect of the water withdrawal on downstream communities and on the habitat of the threatened Cherokee darter. A $29.1 million low-interest state loan awarded in August was the capper, according to Joe Cook, executive director of the Coosa River Basin Initiative.
“It’s an example of the misguided use of our state tax dollars to support these reservoir projects that are sending really pricey water to leaky pipes,” he said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
Cook said Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration should instead focus its $300 million water supply program on helping communities repair and upgrade their inefficient systems.
He also contends Paulding has overstated its need for the estimated $85 million reservoir.
“They’re purchasing water from Cobb County and it’s leaking out on the ground before it gets to the customer. That’s a tremendous waste of Paulding taxpayer money right there,” he said.
Paulding Water Director Michael Carter said the county is addressing issues where it can, but the need for the reservoir is real. He also said Cook emailed him with specific questions in preparation for the “Dirty Dozen” report, but his offer to meet and discuss the project still remains in limbo.
“I have a community of 143,000 folks I’ve got to supply with water, and it’s going to continue to grow,” Carter said. “I sympathize with these kinds of groups to some extent, but sometimes it’s frustrating. At least give us credit for what we do.”
Paulding already is an efficient water-user, he said. Its growth is new, so most water fixtures are modern, and its per capita use is the lowest in the metro Atlanta water district.
Carter noted that the county operates re-use systems that recycle treated wastewater to three golf courses and some residences, for irrigation.
He also said some of the water pulled into the reservoir will be recycled, since the intake is downstream of Paulding’s treated wastewater discharges.
“In fact, wastewater discharges from our facilities to the Etowah River are required to our demands and the low-flow protection requirements that (Georgia Environmental Protection Division) has for this project,” he said.
Carter said the county has submitted its water withdrawal applications and expects to receive the permit by the middle of next year.
Issues with the EPD regarding the water level in the river have been resolved, he said, and both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are conducting formal reviews.
Paulding recently selected engineering consultant Arcadis to do the preliminary design, with construction projected to start in early 2015, Carter said.
Click to see an archived report and a link to the project website.
The Coalition’s full report details the history of each site and provides solutions to correct these ongoing pollution problems and eliminate the listed threats. It is available online at: http://www.garivers.org/gawater/dirtydozen.htm.