Neighbors in Forsyth County became concerned when crews began work to tear down a dam near Lake Lanier, a move they believe could contaminate the lake.

Tests say no water contamination at controversial Lake Lanier site

New water testing conducted at a controversial former golf course site near Lake Lanier found no trace of pollutants like pesticides and arsenic.

Former irrigation ponds at the site of the old Lanier Golf Course — on which developer Danny Bennett and his partner hope to build more than 300 homes — have been the focus of contention in Forsyth County for several months. Commission Chair Laura Semanson and a handful of neighbors have pushed for more testing of water in and around the ponds, which they fear could contain high levels of pesticides and heavy metals left over from golf course days. 

The ponds are not far from Lake Lanier, which provides drinking water to most of metro Atlanta. Semanson has expressed concern that developers disturbing an earthen dam in the area could result in water and soil from the ponds leaching into the lake.

Jacobs, the engineering consulting firm that serves as Forsyth’s “water quality consultant,” tested water from the site on Jan. 9 after officials determined that the county’s stormwater management program and regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency allowed them to complete such testing.

A summary of the results was posted on the county website on Tuesday.

They reportedly found that all “pesticide, herbicide and semi-volatile organic compounds” tested for were “below detection limit.” Arsenic was too. 

Semanson  said she wasn’t sure what happens next. She called the testing “very limited in scope” and said soil in the area should be the real target. 

“It did not address the soils, which is key, especially considering they appear to have moved form the ponds to the lake,” Semanson said. 

According to a statement from the county, ordinances and the county attorney have determined that Forsyth “does not currently have the authority to conduct soil testing on private property.”

Bennett, meanwhile, questioned the legality of the county even testing water on the property. The developer — who last week filed both a lawsuit and an ethics complaint against Semanson — contended that the testing should have been completed using water downstream, if at all, and not on his property. 

Bennett has maintained that he has completed all environmental testing required by law.

“The water sample was taken from the discharge of a water pump that was drawing water from the absolute bottom of the irrigation pond,” Bennett wrote in a statement to the AJC. “The sample showed all parameters being ‘below detection limits’ so the false narrative being spun by Commissioner Semanson and the neighbors to stop my development is now debunked.”

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.