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Bulloch County deal will supply water to Hyundai plant
Bryan County to partner on four Bulloch wells
Hyundai logo 1

The Bulloch County Board of Commissioners has contracted to buy two acres of land on Old Highway 46 as the proposed site for one of four large wells intended to supply water to Hyundai Motor Group’s massive Meta Plant America.

Bulloch County is expected to own two wells and Bryan County to own the other two wells to furnish water to the $5.54 billion electric vehicle and battery manufacturing complex, projected to open in the first half of 2025 and eventually employ 8,100 people. Although the plant is under construction in northern Bryan County a little over five miles from the Bulloch County line, Bulloch is expected to host all four wells, including the two that Bryan County will own.

Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch says this is so far still an “unwritten agreement in principle,” that was part of the arrangements made by the Savannah Harbor-Interstate 16 Corridor Joint Development Authority, its four member counties – Bryan, Bulloch, Chatham and Effingham – and Georgia’s state government to lure Hyundai to the region.

After a brief closed-door real estate discussion near the end of their otherwise open July 5 evening meeting, the Bulloch commissioners returned to open session and voted 6-0 to approve a purchase contract offering current owners Randall T. Neal, Janet N. Reid and Connie N. Robinson exactly $60,000 for the two-acre site in the southeastern section of the county.

The sale is not final, but the contract predicts that the county and the current owners will close on the deal on or before Sept. 1 if conditions are met.

“Yes, it is intended for one of the well sites serving Hyundai,” Couch confirmed in an email. “I don’t think the two acres would allow us to co-locate any facilities.”

County officials have at times suggested that at least one of the well sites might be used as the location for a Bulloch County Fire Department, Emergency Medical Service or Sheriff’s Office substation or some combination of those, or even a park. But “a minimum of 3-5 acres or more would be ideal,” for such a shared purpose, Couch said, so the two-acre site isn’t intended for that.

But it is the first site county officials have identified as the potential location of one of the two wells Bulloch is expected to own in order to provide water across the county line to the Hyundai plant.


Not just Hyundai

Couch and other Bulloch County staffers have also proposed that these wells will supply the beginnings of Bulloch’s first county-operated water system, also to serve future residential subdivisions and potentially some commercial businesses and Hyundai suppliers – in other words, parts factories – in southeastern Bulloch County.

A development strategy using county water, and potentially sewer, systems to concentrate development in certain areas was codified to some extent in an amendment to the Smart Bulloch 2040 Comprehensive Plan and its Future Development Map unanimously approved by the commissioners in early June. It stakes out a big new “suburban neighborhood” character area and narrower “suburban corridors” in the southern end of the Southeast Bulloch area. A rewrite of the county’s zoning regulations prior to the map’s adoption created a new, smaller-lot residential classification for single-family houses, R-8, allowed only for subdivisions served by public water and sewer systems in these character areas.

Also in June, the commissioners approved rezoning to “HI” heavy industrial for a Hyundai supplier to build an injection-molded plastic parts factory on a 22-acre parcel on Georgia Highway 119 South, also in Bulloch’s southeastern corner. The project summary stated that the plant could use 50,000 gallons of water per day and that the county anticipates supplying this, eventually, with its water system.

Before closing on the purchase of the well site, the county at its expense must have a boundary survey done, and the sellers must also give the county access to for an environmental audit, if the county chooses to do one, the agreement states. The county would have to give the sellers 30 days’ notice to correct any problems. There’s a similar condition about title encumbrances.


Bryan County wells?

So far, Bryan County officials have not confirmed any well sites their county will own in neighboring Bulloch. Matthew Kent, communications manager for the Bryan County government, said in an email Friday that it is also his understanding that Bryan County will own two wells within Bulloch County, with Bulloch to own the other two.

Couch commented that Bryan County officials may be doing “some prospecting (of)their own,” for sites.

The regulatory reason for Bryan County’s pair of wells to be drilled in Bulloch stems from coastal saltwater intrusions into the Floridan aquifer, the source of deep-well water to much of southern Georgia. Because of these intrusions, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division has long included Bryan County in a “yellow zone” with restrictions on new wells and goals of reducing total groundwater withdrawals.

Also for this reason but unrelated to the Hyundai development, the city of Pembroke, in northern Bryan County, already owns a well in southern Bulloch, withdrawing water under an intergovernmental agreement first signed in 2017.

The four wells to be owned by Bulloch and Bryan counties are expected to supply 1.5 million gallons of water per day to the Hyundai plant. Last summer Couch and other Bulloch County staff members set out a projection of $22.6 million in infrastructure spending to provide water and sewer service to future homes in southeastern Bulloch as well as to the Hyundai plant.

County officials earmarked federal American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, money for about half of the costs.

Hyundai and other customers would pay for the water they use, and Couch has suggested that Bryan County would pay a “host fee” for its wells in Bulloch.

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