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At least 60 homeowners in one Athens subdivision and residents in a newly approved subdivision will have access to public sanitary sewer.

Athens City Council members recently approved a resolution relating to the project.

It says the city will extend sewer service to within 500 feet of the newly approved Whispering Pines Subdivision in accordance with Athens Sewer Department water and sewer line extension policy. The sewer line will be routed and configured so sewer service can also be provided to about 60 existing homeowners in Westgate Subdivision, which is west of Lucas Ferry Road.

Swapping sewer for septic  

Homeowners there have long been on septic systems because public sewer service was not available.

"This will kill two birds with one stone," said Jimmy Junkin, director of Water Services for Athens Utilities. "There is some development going on in the southern border of Westgate, and there is a development called Whispering Pines that has been in the works for a while that is contingent on getting sewer service. But as (the sewer line) goes through Westgate, it will provide sewer access to a good chunk of that subdivision and up to the east where it passes through some homes that have severe septic tank failures and have had dramatic issues. We will provide enough sewer access to them and make sure they they are not having cesspools in their yards."

In all, the majority of the Westgate neighborhood will be served and all of the new development, he said.

"There are some small surrounding areas that would benefit form that, too," Junkin said. "Not large areas, but smaller areas that could be served."

Residents in Westgate will be charged approximately $4,000 to obtain sewer service. In Whispering Pines, the cost of sewer service will be part of the price of a home, but the developer will pay $40,000 upfront to the utilities. Together, that money will help Athens Sewer Department offset the cost of running the lines and offering the service, Junkin said.

The department has so far borrowed $700,000 from the city's general fund to do the work, which involves running a line from Whispering Pines down Leatherwood and back around to the gravity lines at the west end of Westgate, he said. Those lines will then feed into the Watercress lift station before ultimately returning to the wastewater treatment plant off U.S. 31.

In-house work

Much of the work on the line will be done by Athens Sewer Department, Junkin said. The total estimated cost, including engineering, permitting, contract labor on difficult sections, construction material and contingencies, prompted the Sewer Department to borrow the $700,000.

"We may come in way under that, but we want to be conservative," he said. "If 60 homes tie in at $4,000 per home, that will give us back $240,000. We will also get some help from the developer of Whispering Pines, so that should knock out a big hole in the money we have to invest."

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