DeKalb trying to clean up sewer mess and reduce spills

The problems beneath DeKalb County’s streets may not be the crisis that everyone feared, says DeKalb CEO Mike Thurmond.

The county previously overestimated its sewer limitations, which raised concerns that new construction would increase the risk of spills, he said. New estimates will give a more accurate picture that won’t constrain business growth.

Even so, the county is dealing with a sharp increase this year in sewage spills that pollute public waters. The county had 111 spills through the first six months of this year compared to 135 spills all of last year.

“We made a huge mistake, strategically and otherwise, in not investing time, resources and energy into maintaining and enhancing our water and sewer system,” Thurmond said. “We’re back on track, and I’m excited that we’re moving in the right direction.”

Meanwhile, DeKalb Watershed Director Scott Towler wrote in an email last month that the county may have violated a federal court order when it allowed Mercy Care’s new clinic in Chamblee to open before the county was confident its sewer system could handle the increased load.

Still, Thurmond says he believes the county will meet its goals of reducing sewer spills. He plans to institute new policies and procedures to ensure the county manages potential problems appropriately.

Exclusive to subscribers: Read about DeKalb’s struggles to repair its sewer system and the county’s disagreement over the approval of Mercy Care clinic on myAJC.com.

Spills where sewage gets into a creek or river are on track to rise 63 percent this year, according to authorities.

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