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County to fight sludge application
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Dawson County has drafted an ordinance that would prohibit land application of Class B sewage sludge.

The ordinance is in response to an application filed with the state Environmental Protection Department (EPD) by property owner Ken Curren. Curren is an agent with Waterscapes Services LLC, and also a registered agent with Rotag LLC, which owns a 165-acre tract near the intersection of Harry Sosebee and Lumpkin Campground roads.

Currens application is to amend a sludge management plan that would allow land application, on approximately 65 acres, of Class B biosolids from the Hampton Creek Water Reclamation Facility in Forsyth County.

The decision for this permit is made by the EPD, said Planning and Development Director David McKee. It is a state decision, not a board decision.

Class B biosolids are treated human waste, but they still contain detectible levels of pathogens, according to the state EPA website. There are buffer requirements, public access, and crop harvesting restrictions for virtually all forms of Class B biosolids.

The Environmental Protection Agency website says partially treated biosolids are a valuable resource for the soil. Ken Curren said environmental agencies call spreading the biosolids a beneficial use.

McKee made an informational slide presentation to a packed house at the Dawson County Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting Aug. 16.

McKee said there are multiple objections that can be raised with EPD to oppose the sludge sprayfield, including:

Fifteen percent of Dawson Countys population is within a one-mile radius of the proposed sludge sprayfields (approximately 3,500 people, according to 2010 census data).

Three of the four proposed sprayfields are within the 300-foot dwelling buffer as stated in EPD guidelines.

There are 1,470 dwellings within a two-mile radius.

The Premium Outlet Mall, a primary source of revenue for the county, is approximately 1.2 miles away.

Slope contours on the majority of the property are greater than 5 percent. EPD guidelines state that the ideal contour for land application of sludge is 5 percent or less. If I had to take an educated guess, I would say that only 10 to 15 percent meets the EPD slope requirements, McKee said. The property is zoned Residential Planned Community (RPC), which does not allow for the application of sludge, which is an industrial use of the property.

The exact location of the fields appears to be hand-drawn on the sludge management plan with no survey/reference points. McKees staff noted there is a stream in the southeast corner of the property; however, Currens map shows a field. One proposed field has two private wells inside the required 250-foot buffer established by the EPD.

Another field is shown as being in a flood plain.

Brooke Anderson, general manager Etowah Water and Sewer in Dawson County, said the issue is not static.

This treatment plant (Hampton Creek Water Reclamation Facility in Forsyth) is operating at 20 percent capacity. A thousand homes can grow to 5,000, he said.

County Attorney Joey Homans said that in 2010 Ken Curren signed an agreement that he would resign his position as managing member of the Hampton Water Reclamation facility and have no further involvement with that facility or the James Creek Water Reclamation Facility, and that he would have no contact with a regulatory agency.

It appears to me that by filing (the application with the EPD), he violated the terms of this agreement and he is not authorized to act on behalf of Waterscape or the Hampton Creek Facility, Homans said.

Homans said this information could be used as a potential objection to Currens application. There are multiple procedural objections that could be raised, he added.

Jane Graves of the Dawson County Homeowners Civic Association began circulating a petition two weeks ago and has gathered more than 1,000 signatures to oppose ... the dumping/spraying/storage of sewer sludge (partially treated human waste) from Forsyth County on parcel #107 013 located in Dawson County at the corner of Harry Sosebee and Lumpkin Campground roads, close to homes, streams, wetlands and within smelling distance of Dawson Countys primary revenue source (the Premium Outlet Mall) and the GA 400 business community, the petition states.

We dont want to be known as fecal farms, Graves said during the public hearing portion of the BOC meeting. Resident Doug Cox, who lives on Lumpkin Campground Road, asked if there were wetlands or plains on the property. There are wetlands and flood plains on the property, said McKee. They are recognized by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the EPD wants us to give them that information. Resident Bill Minor said he is concerned about pathogens, drugs, fats, oils and greases.

They coagulate and the stench is unbearable, he said. McKee addressed his concern by saying the EPD has very specific guidelines for what is contained in Class B sludge. There could be drugs, but Im not an expert on what that is, he said.

Resident Bradley Hansard lives on Harry Sosebee Road close to the proposed sprayfields. He asked the board if there is a way to monitor the ground saturation of water for homes in the area.

My ground is so saturated, he said. If this is applied, how much problem can it produce for me?

Commission Chair Mike Berg said any monitoring would stop at the property line. He encouraged residents to share their local knowledge with EPD during an upcoming comment period.

Public comments could begin as early as the week of Sept. 10, but EPD Engineer Benoit Causse said it may be as late as the week of Sept. 24 before he is able to issue the draft permit and post a public notice on EPDs website. Typically, the EPD issues a draft permit which is subject to public comment for 30 days.

Dawson County has set up an information page on its website at HYPERLINK, click Breaking News. The county has also scheduled two public hearings on the draft of its ordinance banning Class B sewage sludge during the regularly scheduled commission meeting on Thursday, Sept. 6, and Thursday, Sept. 20, at 6 p.m. in the Assembly Room at the Dawson County Government Center, located at 25 Justice Way, Dawsonville, Ga.