Tom Heard, general manager of the Cherokee County Water and Sewerage Authority, said Monday the Authority will use $16 million from its reserve fund for the purchase of the plant on East Cherokee Drive, which houses commercial dog food manufacturer American Proteins.
The plant has previously been occupied by Gold Kist and Pilgrim’s Pride operations.
CCWSA has chosen to purchase the plant because of extensive infrastructure there for water withdrawal and waste water and sewage treatment, Heard said.
Heard said the hope is that the Environmental Protection Agency will eventually give CCWSA permitting to increase its capacity for water and sewage processes as a result of the purchase.
The authority also will make use of infrastructure already in place at the factory and will likely construct a pipeline to an existing CCWSA plant nearby, Heard said.
Heard added that the water authority will improve the water and sewage treatment systems already there to allow for better treatment of water being returned to the Etowah River.
County Commission Chair Buzz Ahrens, who is also the vice chair of the CCWSA board, said the extra processing capacity could help the county in the future as new businesses and residential neighborhoods come in.
“From a standpoint of the water withdrawal permit and the waste water discharge value, this will cover our needs for 50 years,” Ahrens said. “This really is an economic development plus. It really ensures the future capacity.”
Ahrens said the need for more water and sewage capacity is clearly on the horizon for Cherokee County, and the purchase of the American Proteins facility was a good answer.
“This would have been one of several alternatives,” Ahrens said to meet the county’s coming needs. “But it seems to be the best one.”
Heard also said the purchase, which could allow the county to withdraw 4.5 million gallons more from the river per day, will be important for future growth.
“(We’ll) have the capacity tied up for the next generation, which nobody in the metro region really has,” Heard said. “It’s a big coup for us. Business-wise, it’ll mean that in the future if industry wants to come to this county, we’ll be able to handle it”
Heard said CCWSA, a nonprofit state agency, has only purchased the land the factory sits on and the buildings.
American Proteins will stay on as a tenant, he said.