AJC: Atlanta faces $113,000 state fine for two massive sewage spills
From The Article
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
State environmental regulators on Monday hit the city of Atlanta with a $113,000 fine for two massive spills of untreated sewage into local waterways this year.
The two spills, together amounting to nearly 26 million gallons, highlight major problems the city has in detecting when pipes break.
In one incident in April, a collapsed mainline near Apache Trail apparently spewed waste for 12 days before the city’s Department of Watershed Management detected the problem. Rain undermined a tree, which then fell and broke the pipe, according to a statement from the city.
The city initially reported a January spill in the northwest Atlanta area of Ridgewood Heights as being 94,500 gallons. But a subsequent check of internal flow data at a monitoring station revealed that the trunk line had actually collapsed and begun spewing waste several days before crews noticed it.
The estimate was revised to more than 22 million gallons — 234 times worse.
In Ridgewood Heights, heavy rains eroded a stream bank that held up a big sewage pipe, causing the rupture, according to the city’s watershed department.
“The city stated that there was a failure of communication between programs within the city’s Watershed Bureau, which led to the untimely discovery and notifications,” Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division said in a consent order obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “However, the city has revised their communication protocols, their (sanitary sewer overflow) standard operating procedure, and mandated training for staff.”
Similarly, the spill into Camp Creek in April was initially estimated to be much smaller than it actually was. The initial estimate of 9,225 gallons fell below the 10,000-gallon threshold generally considered to be a major spill. But a few days later, the city raised the estimated spill volume to nearly 11,000 gallons.