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Water Works- Gwinnett County style

Recently, I had the opportunity to do a podcast interview with Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners Chairperson Charlotte Nash. Ms. Nash covered a variety of topics, one of which was the importance of ensuring adequate water supplies.

Dave Emanuel, Councilman

One of the facilities that directly addresses the county’s water needs is the F. Wayne Hill Water Reclamation Center located in Buford. This facility is particularly noteworthy, not only because of its handling of waste water, but because it is a world-class facility that is literally visited by scientists, government officials and water treatment planners from all over the world.

For good reason. It is the largest ozone and membrane water treatment plant in the world. And the water it pumps back into Lake Lanier is cleaner than the water it pumps out of the lake to supply water throughout the county. 

Adequate water supplies are obviously essential for both businesses and residents. And as the county population continues to grow, demands for water increase. To gain some perspective on the current supply side of the equation, consider that each day, the Hill facility pulls approximately 65 million gallons from the lake for use by county residents. It also pumps approximately 33 million gallons of purified water back into the lake. That translates to a 50% reduction in the amount of water the treatment plant draws out of the lake every day.

As you might expect, the process used to turn waste water into drinkable water is quite sophisticated. It begins with numerous mechanical steps that remove solid material. Next, the water flows into a large pool where a variety of organisms (none of which bacteria would like to encounter in a dark alley) break down remaining waste materials. 

Additional processes include sand filtration, membrane filtration, ionization and activated carbon filtration. After all treatment processes are completed, the water is fit to drink and lacks only the required addition of chlorine and fluoride.

Another aspect of the water treatment plant’s advanced technology is the use of gases, produced through treatment processes, to generate electricity- electricity that is used to operate the plant. An independent evaluation noted that the electricity generated by the waste products of water treatment processes resulted in electrical cost savings of over $1,000 per day.

Another cost-reduction tactic employed at the plant is recovery of phosphorus, which is sold for use as fertilizer. Gwinnett County has extremely strict limits on water phosphorus levels, a consequence of an agreement with the Lake Lanier Association. (High levels of phosphorus in water results in increased algae growth.) Phosphorus also coats the pipes through which water flows during treatment processes, requiring periodic pipe cleaning.

The recovery of phosphorus for use as a fertilizer component not only saves the county approximately $100,000 in pipe cleaning costs, it also generates income and reduces disposal costs. County officials estimate an income of $220,000 a year in fertilizer sales and a savings of $250,000 a year in waste disposal costs.

In an era of widespread dissatisfaction with government at all levels, it’s refreshing to see that Gwinnett County leaders have taken aggressive steps to address the critical issue of water resources and have done so by implementing advanced technology to not only create a processing facility, but to reduce costs. 

Water is obviously an essential ingredient in any county’s or state’s recipe for continued success. Fortunately for its residents and businesses, Gwinnett County has been, and continues to be a world leader in implementing and continually expanding water recovery and cost saving efforts.  

Dave Emanuel is Vice President of Random Technologies, a manufacturing company in Loganville, and a Snellville City Councilman. To read more from Dave Emanuel visit