Atlanta settles suit with residents over sewer, flood damage

Twenty-three Atlanta residents who have dealt with years of flooding and raw sewage backups in their homes will share in a $1.5 million payout from the city to settle a long-standing suit.

On Monday, the Atlanta City Council voted 14-0 to compensate the residents, acknowledging that there was significant property damage caused by what it called "the failure and inadequacies of the city of Atlanta’s storm water and sanitary sewer systems."

Atlanta City Council member Ivory Lee Young, who represents District 3, where several of the plaintiffs live, said residents impacted by the floods were not from any particular part of the city and represented multiple locations that crossed district lines.

Young allowed that a number of the plaintiffs in the case had previous incidents of sewer damage that impacted their properties.

“According to the law department, it was in our best interest to settle,” Young said.

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Most residents lived in the area within Proctor Creek drainage basin -- which includes Martin Luther King Boulevard, Tiger Flowers Drive and Detroit Avenue. It traditionally has flooded for years because of inadequate storm water drainage and the city’s antiquated sewer system.

“This was a huge problem,” said Sam L. Starks, the attorney representing the 23 residents. “Water was literally washing away portions of their homes. That is the sort of thing happening over and over again during normal rain events.”

Starks said some complaints went back to 2002. He said that everyone had a separate situation, so the individual payouts will vary.

“We were seeking to streamline cases,” said Atlanta City Attorney Cathy Hampton. “If we could take care of this in one fell swoop, we would save time and money for the city.”

Starks was still not convinced that the issue was over. He had mixed feelings over the settlement.

“There are still problems that are being addressed," Starks said. "They are paying a little bit of money so they will go away. None of these clients are being made whole. Their homes are not being bought out. They are not getting 100 percent of the damages. The city is not saying they are going to now come and fix it.

"This is not a solution to my clients’ problems or the problems in that neighborhood, and, if the city doesn’t address it, they will see us again.”

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