The clinic needed to install a holding tank and to release sewage overnight to open but the tank was never built.
Towler wrote that he had no choice but to notify state and federal environmental agencies, which recently fined the county nearly $300,000 for unrelated previous sewage spills.
A major sewage spill occurred near Mercy Care on June 28, dumping 182,000 gallons near Nancy Creek, according to county documents. It’s unclear whether the clinic was a cause or contributor to the spill.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declined to comment Monday on DeKalb’s compliance.
Diana Lewis, a spokeswoman for the clinic, said a DeKalb employee gave Mercy Care permission in February to begin treating patients without having to install a $500,000 holding tank.
She said the county had planned to build a tank at a nearby park, without any added expense or delay for Mercy Care, which opened April 18 and provides primary care, family and pediatric services.
“Since a solution had been found, Mercy Care confirmed twice in writing to county officials it was moving forward with completing the project unless there was something else we needed to do,” according to a statement posted on Mercy Care’s website. “… We now know the solution DeKalb County offered did not materialize, and we are working with them on a new solution.”
DeKalb CEO Mike Thurmond, who took office in January, said he will institute policies and procedures to ensure the kind of confusion around Mercy Care doesn’t happen again. He said he’s reviewing whether Mercy Care should have been given the go-ahead.
“Mercy Care alleges that they received permission. Our people in Watershed Management contradict that. We’re trying to resolve it,” Thurmond said. “There should have been a series of documented steps and sign-offs.”
He said the county is improving the accuracy of its sewer capacity assessment modeling in the coming months. He said it’s possible that adequate capacity already exists at the Mercy Care site, located near the Chamblee MARTA station.
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