Progress was hampered from the outset by negligence, mismanagement and corruption within the county. While efforts have been refocused since DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond took office in 2017, the county is still years away from any version of completion or compliance.
DeKalb officials declined to comment Monday on a renegotiated agreement..
Representatives from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and the Georgia Attorney General’s office declined comment as well. So did a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, whose attorneys are representing the interests of federal regulators.
The DOJ spokesman did, however, say that any proposal would go through an approval process with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before being presented in court for consideration by Judge Steven D. Grimberg, who was assigned to the consent decree case when it was reopened last month.
Changes to the agreement would also be subject to a 30-day public comment period, he said.
A potential timeline for all of that to happen remained unclear Monday. But more information could emerge as soon as Tuesday morning, when Grimberg will hear arguments in a separate but related lawsuit.
The South River Watershed Alliance filed its own suit against DeKalb County last fall, arguing that it had not done enough to address sewer spills and that regulators had failed to "diligently prosecute" the consent decree. The latter is likely to be a focus of a 10 a.m. hearing regarding DeKalb's motion to dismiss the suit.
Jacqueline Echols, president of the South River Watershed Alliance, doesn’t think the timing is a coincidence.
“Seems the timing of the ‘agreement in principle’ was influenced by the need to show some amount of agreement between EPA and DeKalb on extending the consent decree going into (Tuesday’s) hearing,” she said. “Makes you wonder what would have happened without the incentive of SRWA’s lawsuit.”