Legislation that would place tougher regulations on sludge application overwhelmingly passed in the Senate last week and now awaits the governor's approval.
House Bill 741, which passed 53-2 in the Senate on March 18, stems from an issue Dawson County faced a few years ago when a developer petitioned to dump partially treated waste on property near the North Georgia Premium Outlets.
State Rep. Kevin Tanner's initial bill passed 161-1 in the House on Feb. 10. Sen. Steve Gooch carried the bill in the Senate.
"I appreciate the hard work of Sen. Steve Gooch as it helped to ensure that the sludge bill made it through the Senate last Tuesday," Tanner said. "This is an issue that is important to our community and I am hopeful the governor will soon sign it into law."
The bill would give local governments and their residents a say in where sludge can be placed in their communities. It would also require any public hearings on matters of sludge application to be held in the county where land is located, contrary to current law that does not regulate such a criteria.
"This is especially important for the Dawson County community," Tanner said. "This issue originated when I was county manager, and I've worked on it since then to give local communities a local voice in regards to sludge application."
If approved, those seeking sludge application permits would have to go before the respective city or county governments and show they are in compliance with their land use ordinances or zoning requirements.
The debate over sludge application started nearly two years ago when developer Ken Curren filed an application with the state Environmental Protection Division to amend the Hampton Creek Water Reclamation Facility sludge management plan.
According to the application, Curren wanted to spread partially treated liquid waste from the Forsyth County plant on about 65 acres at Lumpkin Campground and Harry Sosebee roads in Dawson County, about one mile away from the busy Ga. 400 corridor, which includes the North Georgia Premium Outlets, the county's largest source of sales tax revenue.
Etowah Water and Sewer Authority has since entered into a contract to treat the sludge for waste from the plant.
EPD identifies Class B sewage as bio-solids that have been treated but still contain detectible levels of pathogens.
The sludge issue remains a contentious issue in Dawson County, where residents banned together in recent years to oppose the application of Class B sewage locally.
They voiced concerns over potential pathogens seeping into the water supply, diminishing property values and a drop in sales tax revenue.
Jane Graves, president of the Dawson County Homeowners and Civic Association, led the charge.
"That will allow counties across the state, not just Dawson County ... to have a little more control over where sewer sludge goes. What started with some petitions ... give yourselves a hand," she said Saturday during the association's annual meeting.