The South River: The Hidden Gem of Rockdale County (April 18, 2014)
The city of Atlanta is reportedly seeking a permit from the Ga. Environmental Protection Division that effectively allows Atlanta to dump more biological and solid pollution into the South River, which starts in Fulton County and flows through Rockdale and Newton counties before ending at Lake Jackson.
The South River and its tributaries have already been on the state's list of Impaired Waters repeatedly, with violations such as fecal coliform and polychlorinated biphenyl, or PCB, levels.
"If Atlanta succeeds communities in DeKalb, Rockdale, Newton, Henry, Jasper, and Butts Counties will suffer. We all live downstream; what harms one, harms all," said Jackie Echols, president of South River Watershed Alliance, a watchdog group for the South River.
"Atlanta and GA EPD should be actively pursuing ways to eliminate discharges, not trying to turn back the clock," continued Echols. "As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am passionate about the benefits of this permit... First because it is the law and second, it provides the most reliable protection surface waters have under the federal Clean Water Act."
The new permits would reportedly reduce the amount of solids and biological waste Atlanta is required to clean out of its sewage water before dumping it into the South River water system.
Although newer municipal facilities have separate storm water and sewage systems, Atlanta uses an older combined sewer and stormwater system, which leads to sewage discharges during heavy rains. Atlanta's East Area Combined Sewer System discharges into Intrenchment Creek, which feeds into the South River.
Atlanta has in the past repeatedly violated its previous permits and paid fines levied by the Ga. EPD. In 2012, it reportedly had six unpermitted discharges in 2008 to 2010, 18 effluent (biological waste) violations in 2008 to 2010, and 10 permit violations from 2007 to 2010. It paid $98,000 in 2012 for those violations.
The cost of separating combined sewer overflow areas is significant; the city of Grand Rapids, Mich. reportedly eliminated most of its combined sewer overflow areas with construction from 1991-2011 at a cost of $360 million.
GA EPD is holding a public hearing on Atlanta's proposed permit Thursday, February 5, 2015 at 7 p.m. at the EPD Tradeport Training Room located at 4244 International Parkway, Atlanta, GA 30354.
Written comments from the public are due to GA EPD, 2 MLK, Jr. Drive, Suite 1152E, Atlanta, GA 30334 or via email at EPDcomments@dnr.state.ga.us by Friday, February 13, 2015. In comments by email, use the words "NPDES Permit Reissuance - City of Atlanta Combined Sewer System" in the subject line.
These are the only opportunities for public involvement in the permitting process.