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Nov. 20, 2018
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Gwinnett to build world-class Water Innovation Center

By Pamela A. Keene
 
When Gwinnett County opened the F. Wayne Hill Water Resources Center in 2001 to process the county’s wastewater, officials envisioned that it would become a model for wastewater treatment across the nation. 
 
Fast forward to 2018. Ground was broken last month at the 700-acre complex on what will become a destination for water-quality research, education and studies for businesses, municipalities and companies around the world.
 
“It’s huge,” says Gwinnett Commissioner John Heard. “When we were working on the litigation with the Lake Lanier Association and others about discharges into Lake Lanier, we were able to reduce the amount of phosphate discharge to just 0.08 milligrams per liter. That’s among the best level anywhere in the country, except for a plant in New Jersey that matches us.” 
 
The maximum acceptable level of phosphorus/phosphates in water is 0.1 milligrams per liter, according to the Water Research Center based in Dallas, Pennsylvania.
 
Phosphorus is known to cause algae blooms and accelerated aquatic plant growth that hinder the oxygenation of water and harm fish and wildlife.
 
The US Geological Survey, the science agency for the US Department of the Interior, has cited several cases in Georgia as examples of issues regarding phosphorus from point-source (water treatment plants) as contributing to excess phosphorus in area lakes and rivers. The USGS shows that the amount of phosphorus in the Chattahoochee River upstream of Atlanta, i.e., from Gwinnett and other sources, has historically been far less than from waste-water treatment plants downstream of Atlanta. 
 
The Wayne Hill Water Resources Center currently treats 35 million gallons per day of wastewater, including screening and dirt removal, primary clarification, biological nutrient removal ,secondary clarification, 0.045 micron membrane filtration and ozonation before the treated water is discharged into Lake Lanier not far from Buford Dam. Water from the plant can also be discharged into the Chattahoochee River. The center has become a model for other communities. 
 
“People from around the globe have come to the Wayne Hill Pant to see how we’re able to do what we do,” Heard says. “With that in mind, we in Gwinnett decided to look at ways to incubate and start businesses around the technology of the Water Resources Center. that’s the idea behind our creation of a Water Innovation Center here.” 
 
Ground was broken in October for a $60 million facility to be built on the campus. Officials predict that the center will be one-of-a-kind in the nation. The county has partnered with a number of agencies, educational institutions and organizations to make the center a reality, including the Georgia Institute of Technology, The University of Georgia, Johns Hopkins University and the Lake Lanier Association.
 
“Already we have 10 businesses interested in setting up incubators, new studies and lab work,” Heard said. “Our conservative estimate is that the center will create 5,000 jobs when it’s complete and create a campus of water-related businesses that will attract world-wide attention.” Heard said taxpayers were not providing the funding. Instead, funds are coming from water and sewer use charges.
 
In addition to the F. Wayne Hill Water Resources Center, the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center is located on the campus. It opened in 2006 and serves as a public gateway to the resources center and a focal point of education about the heritage and environment in Gwinnett County.
 
“The goal is to tie in with the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center, including providing education for youngsters through school programs and visits there as well,” Heard said. “But the Water Innovation Center will go way beyond that, looking at issues related to water treatment technology. For instance, water from the F. Wayne Hill Center will be piped into the center to analyze different stages of processing to continue to improve technology around water quality.” 
 
Tours of the F. Wayne Hill Water Resources Center can be arranged through the Environmental Heritage Center by calling 770 904-3500.

Posted online 10/29/18
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