Atlanta To Spend Billions To Clean Water
Thirty years ago, Atlanta was one of the first cities the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took to court to clean up its municipal sewage discharges.
Thirty years ago, Atlanta was one of the first cities the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took to court to clean up its municipal sewage discharges. Since 1994, Georgia Environmental Protection Division regulators have fined the city $19 million for water-quality violations. "I would have to say they've drug their feet" instead of bringing Atlanta's sewers up to standard, says Alan Hallum, Georgia's water-quality chief.
That history is about to change dramatically. In October, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin announced a $3 billion plan to correct chronic sewage spills and cure other ills. "What I am interested in is creating the cleanest streams and rivers of any large city in America," the mayor says.
In devising Franklin's program, Atlanta officials acknowledged that continued sewage spills were damaging the city's reputation. Other big cities have been forging ahead to correct sewage overflows, but "Atlanta is 20 years behind where it should be," the mayor's clean water advisory panel wrote in outlining the program. "Further delay is not acceptable."
Clean Water Atlanta and other initiatives will: --Invest $2 billion in sewer and treatment plant improvements. --Spend $834 million to install separate sewer and stormwater lines to replace 85 miles of combined sewers beneath Atlanta's downtown that now overflow during heavy rainstorms. --Increase Atlanta sewer bills by about three times the current rates, hiking the average bill to $150 a month to cover the sewer improvements. --Create a stormwater utility empowered to levy a "rain tax"--based on the amount of land covered by impervious rooftops and parking lots- -to raise money for managing stormwater runoff in the future.