Atlanta council committee wants report on sewage spills

An Atlanta City Council committee on Tuesday unanimously passed a request that Mayor Kasim Reed’s Watershed Department provide a comprehensive report on all sewage discharges last year, and the impact they have had on city neighborhoods, creeks and parks.

The resolution, approved unanimously by the council’s Utilities Committee, requests the information within 90 days. It will be considered by the full city council Monday.

Atlanta is under a $4 billion federally-mandated legal agreement to clean up its sewer system by 2027. The city completed work on its combined sewer system in 2008, but continues fixing problems with its sanitary system. Combined sewers are designed to carry sewage and rainwater; sanitary systems are designed for sewage only, but sometimes overflow because of storm water seeps into the system.

Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean, who sponsored the resolution, said it’s important for the council and citizens to understand the city’s path forward — particularly since the Environmental Protection Agency recently extended the city’s deadline, and city voters approved a 1-percent sales tax that will help fund the needed projects.

“We have funding, and we have a council that is ready to go to work,” Adrean said. “So this is just a request to ask for a game plan so we can communicate it to our constituents. Specifically with regard to Memorial Park … I want to make sure they go beyond repair – which is needed – and address capacity” issues.

A spokeswoman for the Stormwater Department said that providing the report won’t be a problem.

“Basically, they’re just asking for a spill report and that’s fine and that’s manageable,” spokeswoman Lillian Govus said.

Memorial Park has been the site of many overflows — including spectacular geysers of raw sewage shooting out of elevated manhole covers. Reed and his leadership team visited the park last week, with the mayor promising to work with neighborhood residents on his plan to spend about $40 million in the area.

But one day later, an engineer who is independent from the city told the Utilities Committee that he thinks the city needs to build a storage tunnel to resolve the issue, and it was likely to cost more than $40 million.

The council passed a similar resolution Feb. 15, only to have Mayor Reed veto it. In his veto letter to Council President Ceasar Mitchell, Reed said the resolution “falsely implies that the city is creating environmental hazards and is not in compliance with the law.”

The $40 million in projects planned for Memorial Park include refurbishing a 90-inch trunk main, to fix cracks that allow sewage to seep out and storm water to get in. There are also plans to move a playground that has been repeatedly fouled by the sewage.

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