FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. – After receiving charges of more than $6,000 to connect to city sewer after their sewer system failed, a large group of citizens convened with county officials June 21 to air their grievances.
The failed plant is the Habersham Wastewater Treatment Facility, a facility privately owned by a private corporation named Habersham Action Committee. The plant, built more than 30 years ago, lies in Forsyth County’s District 5 and has long been a point on contention between the county and the City of Cumming.
This spring the situation reached a breaking point.
In April, a fire at the facility’s main wastewater pumping station caused the system to fail. The city said the flow was diverted to the city’s sewer system for treatment without permission from the city.
City of Cumming Director of Utilities Jon Heard sent a letter to residents on May 17 telling affected residents since they will now be connected to the city system, they will be required to pay a one-time connection fee of $6,250 per unit.
He went on to say the city understands this fee may create financial hardship for citizens, but the money needs to be paid in full by 5 p.m. on July 31 to prevent further fees and receive a discount of $1,250. Payment plans were also offered, but those who do not pay in full on time will be charged on their August water bill.
“This connection fee will be applied to the costs associated with upgrades that are vitally important in order to provide modern, secure wastewater treatment services to your neighborhood,” Heard wrote.
District 5 County Commissioner Laura Semanson said she felt a town hall was necessary after hearing from her constituents, many of whom didn’t realize there was a problem until receiving that letter in the mail.
Semanson urged residents to write letters to elected officials to show their disagreement with the letter. She also said she invited city officials to the town hall, but they were unable to make it. However, she said she plans to set up a meeting with Mayor H. Ford Gravitt to discuss the letter and future plans.
The facility was a privately owned wastewater treatment plant run by a group of homeowners called the Habersham Action Committee. That is until April when the Cumming City Council unanimously voted to condemn the plant and rebuild a new facility after the fire.
Currently, the sewer on Buford Dam Road services about 400 homes including Habersham on Lanier, Habersham at Lanier, Townhouses at Lanier/Lanier Golf Club and Habersham-Lanier Pointe.
According to both county and city officials, the sewer, built over 30 years ago with a life expectancy of 20 years, is in “bad condition” and emptied into Lake Lanier.
The city said it is in the process of designing a new water reclamation facility to replace the failed Habersham sewer, but it will cost roughly $10 million. The new facility would cycle about 111,000 gallons a day and is proposed to be completed in about a year to 18 months.