Hearing set for Little Tennessee discharge permit

A public hearing over a sewer discharge permit into the Little Tennessee River will be held on Tuesday, July 7, in Rabun County, Ga.

Rabun County plans to convert a former industrial wastewater treatment plant at a closed-down textile mill into a sewer treatment plant. The plant would discharge into the Little Tennessee River, which flows north into Franklin and Macon County and ultimately ends up in Fontana Lake.

Residents of Macon County have expressed concern over the prospect of 2 million gallons a day of treated wastewater being dumped into the Little Tennessee. The Little Tennessee is known for its excellent water quality and biological diversity. It flows through the heart of downtown Franklin and is a source of recreation. The town may one day need to use it for drinking water as well, fueling concerns.

Macon County and the town of Franklin along with environmental organizations requested a formal public hearing during a written comment period on the permit.

Rabun County leaders hope an operational sewer treatment plant at the former factory site will lure a new industry to set up shop there. County leaders also hope to facilitate general growth and development. With a sewer treatment plant, the county could make a foray into the sewer business, although it would also mean running sewer lines, something it currently can’t do because it lacks a treatment plant.

Part of Rabun County lies in the Little Tennessee watershed, which flows north through Macon County and eventually into the Tennessee River. The rest of the county lies in the Savannah River watershed flowing toward Atlanta.

Once Rabun County gets in the water and sewer business, it could theoretically swap water and sewer across the two watersheds — called an interbasin transfer — which could include sucking water out of the Little Tennessee and depositing it on the Savannah River side bound for Atlanta, according to opponents of the discharge permit.

An information session will begin at 7 p.m. with a public hearing to follow at 8 p.m. The hearing will be held at the Rabun County Courthouse in Clayton, Ga.

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