The Gwinnett County Commission now will consider whether to give final approval to the contract.
The decision comes even as a state administrative judge weighs an appeal by lake users, environmentalists and lake property owners. The groups are protesting that the state Environmental Protection Division erred in giving Gwinnett County a permit to discharge into Lake Lanier. The judge's ruling is expected sometime this summer.
"We are proceeding with the expansion of the plant under the presumption that the permit will be upheld," said Frank Stephens, deputy director of the county's Department of Public Utilities. "We are confident of the outcome that the water quality science that supports the permit will be upheld."
The $111 million contract, awarded to Pizzagalli/Western Summit Joint Venture, represents the first major installment toward expanding the plant.
The county in January 2001 began operating a 20 million-gallon-per-day wastewater facility that discharges into the Chattahoochee River. The plant cost $300 million and county officials tout it as state-of-the-art with multiple back-up systems and extra layers of purification. They say the plant is recycling water to the Chattahoochee River basin.
The expansion to 60 million gallons per day will ultimately cost $400 million, and it should be operating in 2006, Stephens said. The additional 40 million gallons per day will be discharged into Lake Lanier.
The authority also signed off on the issuance of $120 million in bonds to help pay for several projects:
• $8 million toward the 72-inches-in-diameter pipeline from the Hill plant to Lake Lanier.
• $45 million toward building the $150 million Shoal Creek Filter Plant.
• $27 million toward building the intake system for the Shoal Creek plant.
• $40 million toward Hill plant expansion.
Source: Atlanta Constitution