Dozens of residents and business leaders on Thursday showed support for a local ordinance that would ban a certain type of sewage application in Dawson County.
Written after developer Ken Curren asked the state Environmental Protection Division to amend the Hampton Creek Water Reclamation Facility sludge management plan, the proposed ordinance would prohibit depositing Class B sewage sludge in the county.
According to his application, Curren wants to place partially treated liquid waste from a Forsyth County plant on about 65 acres at Lumpkin Campground and Harry Sosebee roads.
The site is within one mile of 15 percent of Dawson's population and the busy Ga. 400 corridor, which includes the North Georgia Premium Outlets, the county's largest source of sales tax revenue.
During the first of two public hearings on the matter, county commissioners heard Thursday from several concerned parties.
Citing the potential economic impact of odors, Charlie Auvermann, executive director of the Development Authority of Dawson County, said the owners of the outlet mall "are very much against the dumping of sludge at this location."
"I recognize EPD does not worry about economics, but it should because they get budgeting from the state just as much as everybody else and when we cannot contribute to the state coffers, the state budget is damaged as well," he said.
Opponents of the application have collected more than 2,600 signatures, according to Jane Graves, president of the Dawson County Homeowner's and Civic Association.
"We certainly do support you going forward with the ordinance," she said.
According to Graves, the association and several community members are also considering taking legal action against Curren's application.
Among the concerns of those who spoke at Thursday's public hearing were potential pathogens seeping into the water supply.
Donnie Kelley and his family have a 7-acre lake on their Alan Thomas Road property, about 2 miles from the proposed dumping site.
"I'm worried about it getting contaminated, and also all my neighbors and everybody are on well systems and we're worried about that," he said.
Christie Haynes, president of the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce, noted that "it's a difficult time to try to attract business to our community."
"And if it comes down to our community verses another community, and they hear there's sludge dumping right next to a huge outlet mall, do you think they're going to pick Dawson County? I can go ahead and tell you they're not," she said.
Haynes went on to say the chamber would be a partner with the county in the fight to ensure Dawson does not become a dumping ground.
No one spoke in opposition to the proposed ordinance, and Curren did not attend the hearing.
He did, however, meet with neighboring property owners in July to discuss his plans, which call for applying 55 dry tons of liquid Class B biosolids annually on the 160-acre tract that was initially zoned for a residential subdivision.
According to EPD's Web site, Class B biosolids are treated but still contain detectible levels of pathogens.
Dawson County Attorney Joey Homans drafted the proposed ordinance, which cites the nation's Clean Water Act that "permits local governments to determine the manner" sludge can be deposited.
He encouraged those in attendance to research the specific health risks the spreading of Class B sludge could pose.
"Any empirical data where this has affected a business or commercial enterprise near where one of these sludge fields has been located - that kind of factual data would be helpful to the board in trying to uphold this ordinance should the board choose to adopt it," Homans said.
A second public hearing, which is set for 6 p.m. Sept. 20, is required before the commission can vote on the measure.