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U.S., GEORGIA, AND ATLANTA REACH SETTLEMENT TO FIX CITY’S AGING SEWER SYSTEM

Release Date: 07/29/99
Contact Information:

THURSDAY, JULY 29, 1999

U.S., GEORGIA, AND ATLANTA REACH SETTLEMENT
TO FIX CITY’S AGING SEWER SYSTEM

The United States and the State of Georgia today reached a settlement with the City of Atlanta to resolve water pollution violations throughout the city’s sanitary sewer system. The agreement filed today in U.S. District Court in Atlanta requires the city to pay a civil penalty of $700,000 and take corrective action to bring its sewer system into compliance with the Clean Water Act and the Georgia Water Quality Control Act.

For years, the city's sewer system has had inadequate collection capacity, which results in the periodic discharge of sewage into some areas of the city. These problems have intensified as Atlanta’s population has grown.

“This agreement is an important step toward cleaner, healthier water for the people of Atlanta,” said Lois Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “It means that Atlanta will have a sewer system that works. That's good news for the people of this region, and for our environment.”

The agreement lays out steps that Atlanta must follow to stop discharges of untreated or partially treated sewage into waterways and onto land. Bacteria and nutrients from fecal contamination impair waterways and can cause serious health problems, and these contaminants are typically found in very high concentrations in sewer overflow.

“EPA has worked closely with the State of Georgia to establish this comprehensive and specific agreement to ensure the city’s compliance with federal and state laws,” said John H. Hankinson, Jr., EPA Regional Administrator in Atlanta. “This action will ensure the integrity of the city’s sewer system and local waterways and ensure that the health and environment of Atlanta’s residents are fully protected.”

The settlement announced today is the second of a two-part settlement with the City of Atlanta. In September 1998, the city agreed to resolve federal and state water violations at its combined sewer overflow facilities. Under the first settlement, the city must implement a $27.5 million supplement environmental project that calls for the creation of a greenway corridor and a one-time stream cleanup along selected waterways. Also under the first settlement, the city will pay a $2.5 million penalty -- the largest Clean Water Act penalty ever assessed against a municipality - bringing the total combined penalty to $3.2 million.

Today’s agreement prohibits the city from installing new sewer lines in neighborhoods where the systems lack capacity to handle new flow, unless the city either increases system capacity or reduces flow from other sources. It also requires the city to implement detailed programs for pipes that carry sewage to treatment plants. Finally, the settlement requires the city to install flow-monitoring devices throughout its sewer system in order to determine the amount of flow handled by the system.

“This joint effort provides the road map to positively deal with historical problems associated with the operation of the city’s sewer system and sewage treatment plants,” said Harold Reheis, Director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. “This agreement is consistent with and supports the state’s policy of ‘Zero Tolerance’ for violations of the state’s clean water laws in the sensitive and high growth areas along the Chattahoochee River.”

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City of Atlanta Settlement
July 29, 1999
Fact Sheet

On July 29, 1999, the Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Georgia announced a settlement with the City of Atlanta that resolves alleged violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Georgia Water Quality Control Act (GWQCA) at the City’s wastewater treatment facilities (WWTFs) and collection and transmission systems.

The settlement announced today is the second of a two-part settlement with the City of Atlanta. Prior to today’s settlement, EPA, the State of Georgia, and the Citizen Plaintiffs representing the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Fund, Inc., the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, Inc., and W. Robert Hancock, Jr., entered into an agreement with the City that was entered on Sept. 24,1998, to resolve alleged CWA and GWQCA violations at the City’s Combined Sewer Overflow facilities (CSOs). Last year’s settlement also required the City to implement a $27.5 million supplemental environmental project (SEP), which includes the creation of a Greenway corridor and a one-time stream clean-up along selected streams. Today's agreement does not modify last year's agreement.

Today’s settlement will benefit public health and the environment by eliminating separate sanitary discharges of raw sewage or diluted sewage that can cause significant public health and environmental problems. Bacteria from fecal contamination and nutrients are significant contributors to the impairment of lakes, rivers and streams, and such contaminants are typically found in very high concentrations in sanitary sewer overflows, even in wet weather. Apart from the pollutant impact on surface waters, some of the City’s sanitary sewer discharges occurred in areas frequented by children and pets, providing a likelihood of direct contact with pathogenic bacteria in the wastewater, and posing a significant public health risk, especially for children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

This settlement will serve to end the City of Atlanta’s Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSOs) problems as quickly as possible. Enforcement of this consent decree will help protect public health and the environment from these serious sources of water pollution.

Sanitary Sewer Overflow Consent Decree
Background: On July 29, 1999, a Consent Decree was filed in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Georgia that resolves alleged violations of the CWA and the GWQCA that occurred at the City’s wastewater treatment facilities and collection and transmission systems occurring between 1993 and 1998. The government’s complaint alleges that the City violated the terms and conditions of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits; unpermitted discharges of untreated or partially treated wastewater; failure to enter into agreements with other jurisdictions that address pretreatment requirements and unpermitted discharges from the collection and transmission system to dry land and U.S. and State waters.

Under the agreement, the City will:
      •Pay a civil penalty of $700,000 for unpermitted discharges and for sanitary sewage overflows (this amount is in addition to the $2.5 million penalty paid under 1998 Consent Degree). Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars of the civil penalty go to the U.S. Treasury and the remainder, $450,000, will go to the State of Georgia.
      •Achieve full compliance with the CWA and the GWQCA, including the elimination of all unpermitted discharges and elimination of all sanitary sewage overflows, including sewage overflows to dry land.
      •Implement detailed programs for operating its pipes that carry sewage to treatment plants. This includes plans to implement short-term and long-term management, operation and maintenance programs and a corrective remedial action plan to bring its wastewater treatment facilities and collection and transmission systems into compliance with the CWA and GWQCA.
      •Complete all remedial actions necessary to bring the wastewater treatment facilities and collection and transmission systems into compliance with the CWA and GWQCA within 14 years.
      •This is the first instance in the State of Georgia in which the State and EPA jointly brought suit in Federal Court to resolve water pollution problems.

The settlement agreement contains terms to prevent the further deterioration of these systems during implementation of the short-term and remedial phases. For example, the City is prohibited from hooking up new sewer lines in neighborhoods where the systems lack the capacity to handle new flow, unless it increases system capacity there or reduces flow from other sources. The City is also required to install flow-monitoring devices to determine the amount flow handled by the system.

The proposed settlement will be published in the Federal Register for a 30-day public comment period and must be approved by the Court.

Combined Sewer Overflow Consent Decree
Background: On Sept. 24, 1998, a Consent Decree was entered in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Georgia to resolve alleged CWA and GWQCA violations that occurred at all of the City’s Combined Sewer Overflow facilities (CSOs). Under the terms of the consent decree, the City was required to:
      •Pay a $2.5 million civil penalty.
      •Implement and complete corrective remedial action to bring its CSOs into compliance with the CWA and GWQCA by July 1, 2007, unless the State of Georgia and EPA agree to an extension.
      •Implement a $27.5 million supplemental environmental project (SEP) that provides for the creation of a Greenway corridor and a one-time stream clean up along selected streams under the terms of its Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP). Under the agreement, the City is required to complete implementation of the SEP on or before March 31, 2007.
      •Create a citizen advisory committee to guide acquisition and development of the Greenway and clean-up program.
      •Select streams for the Greenway project including the Chattahoochee River corridor from the crossing of Interstate 75 in Fulton County to the crossing of U.S. 27 in Heard County, including all tributary streams in that corridor; and all tributaries of the Chattahoochee River in the City of Atlanta; the South River corridor; and all tributaries of the South River.

      •Select streams for the clean up project including: the entire lengths of Clear Creek, Tanyard Creek, Proctor Creek, Utoy Creek, and Intrenchment Creek and the branch of the South River into which the McDaniel Street CSO discharges down the South River to its confluence with Intrenchment Creek.

Under the CSO settlement, the city will pay a $2.5 million penalty -- the largest Clean Water Act penalty ever assessed against a municipality - bringing the total combined penalty to $3.2 million. Prior to the combined penalty, during November 1992 and May 31, 1999, the State had assessed the City $20.7 million in fines for delays in building combined sewer overflow treatment facilities for sewer system leaks and spills, and for treatment plant permit violations.




































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