One day after Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed promised residents near Memorial Park that the city would spend upwards of $35 million to fix sewer discharges that have been fouling yards and a playground, an independent water and sewer engineer told the city’s Utilities Committee that it will cost a lot more.
Justin Wiedeman, invited to testify by Councilwoman Natalyn Archibong, told the committee that an underground tunnel to store sewage during times of heavy flows is needed in the area, and the cost would be significantly higher than the city’s current plan to refurbish the 90-inch truck line.
“You’ve got some of the fastest growing areas in the city contributing sewage to” these lines, said Wiedeman, who has been critical of the city’s watershed plans in the past.
JoAnn Macrina, the city’s commissioner of Watershed Management, told the committee that such a tunnel would cost at least $500 million and maybe more than $1 billion — cost estimates that Councilwoman Mary Norwood didn’t believe. Macrina also said she thinks the administraiton’s plan will fix the problem.
Macrina said after the meeting that the administration is confident that relining the trunk will go a long way toward fixing the sewage discharges because it will help keep storm water out of the system on wet days, and keep sewage from leaking out through cracks in the line on dry days.
“It will substantially reduce the spills, in both wet and dry weather,” she said.
On Tuesday, Reed and his leadership team toured an area around Memorial Park near Buckhead, and said they would work with residents in fixing the problem.
“I thought an appropriate first step would be for me to come out and see it myself,” Reed said Tuesday. “Thus far, we have invested $45 million in this corridor. We are prepared to invest another $30 to 35 million. But we want to make sure when we make these investments, that they are consistent with what the neighborhood wants as well.
“We’re doing this in partnership.”
Other short-term fixes include moving the park’s playground, raising manhole covers so the creek doesn’t get into the system, and installing flow monitors throughout the park so flow can be diverted before it overflows the pipes.
The sewer main project is part of the federal consent decree — a legal agreement the city has signed with the U.S. Environmental Projection Agency to fix its leaky sewer system. Macrina said the sewer main project had been scheduled for 2019, but the project was moved up because of the sewage spills.
The city has until 2027 to complete all the mandated work under the consent decree.
The city council last month passed a resolution giving Reed’s administration 90 days to report back to council on a plan to fix the problems. The measure was vetoed by Reed’s office, a spokeswoman said, because it implied that the city was out of compliance with the consent decree. Reed then held his meeting with neighborhood leaders.
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