An ongoing issue regarding raw sewage in Buckhead is expected to be resolved this summer.
During heavy rains, an average of one each month, the sewer pipes along Peachtree Creek are overloaded, causing diluted raw sewage to be spilled into the creek.
Also, when the pipes are filled, they overflow that mixture into the ground through manhole covers and cracks, including places like Memorial Park, where a resident took a photo of the playground area inundated with the liquid during a heavy rain April 7.
“It’s getting progressively worse,” said Bruce Dutcher, who has lived on Woodward Way near the park for 22 years. “It’s really a shame because a lot of people use that park. It’s the city’s responsibility to keep that healthy.”
But help is on the way. The problem is expected to be solved July 1, when the Atlanta Department of Watershed Management's Liddell Drive Equalization Facility, part of its Peachtree Creek Capacity Relief Project, is expected to open. The facility, located off Cheshire Bridge Road in northeast Atlanta, will include a 10 million-gallon tank to hold stormwater and raw sewage so the Buckhead area’s pipes will not overflow during hard rains. The cost of the $40 million tank will be shared with DeKalb County.
According to a brochure on the facility, the tank will be empty 95 percent of the time and will be used about 13 times per year and for only a few hours each time.
“If there’s an overflow, it will go to the tank,” said William Horton, a department spokesman. “Once the [sewer system] is empty, the overflow in the tank will slowly release it back into the system.”
The tank project will allow future development and help clean up the creek. The facility will keep Atlanta in compliance with a 1999 federal consent decree requiring the city to overhaul its water/sewer system, and must be operational by July 1 to do so. Under the consent decree, in previous years the city built capacity relief projects in the Nancy Creek and South River basins.
Scheree Rawles, a department spokeswoman, said the city is aware of the issue, inspects the park each time it rains 0.25 inches or more and cleans up the sewage/drain water each time it seeps into the ground. She said the department also self-reports sanitary sewer overflows to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and the Fulton County Public Health Department.
Rawles also said a future development, the Peachtree Trunk Stabilization Project, “will rehab both the Peachtree Creek trunk and the Peachtree Creek Relief trunk to reduce infiltration and inflow. Reducing infiltration and inflow will reduce the number of wet weather induced sanitary sewer overflows in Memorial Park. Construction is expected to begin in late 2014 at a cost of $32 million.”
Catherine Spillman, executive director of the Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy, a nonprofit that aims to protect and maintain the 199-acre park, Atlanta’s third largest, according to the city’s website, said she is pleased to see a solution coming.
“I’m glad to see that the Department of Watershed Management is taking this seriously and doing what they can to help mitigate and hopefully solve the problem we’re having with the sewage issue at Memorial Park,” Spillman said.