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Rain-fueled sewer spills topped 2.87M gallons in DeKalb last week

By Tyler Estep, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

Spills were reported at 19 different sites throughout the county last Thursday, when the remnants of Hurricane Sally dumped as much as six inches of rain in the area. But a majority of the spill volume — 2.1 million gallons — occurred at one problem-plagued location near Lithonia.

The site off Meadow Creek Path had already seen spills of 9.2 million and 6.9 million gallons earlier this year.

Stormwater intrusion frequently causes issues with DeKalb’s aging sewer infrastructure. Rain makes its way into the system through things like cracked pipes, fills everything up and pushes untreated sewage out of manholes and other structures.

But DeKalb officials said the issue has been exacerbated at the Meadow Creek Path location, which is around the corner from the county’s Snapfinger Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility. Because an updated facility is being built at the site, one of its clarifier tanks is currently out of commission, reducing the storage capacity at the plant, officials said.

“While the current plant functions effectively during normal operations,” the county said in a news release, “the elimination of a redundant clarifier reduces the plant’s ability to manage excessive flows during storms.”

The new Snapfinger plant is currently scheduled to be completed in 2022, several years beyond the original target.

DeKalb County has been under a federal consent decree to repair its sewer system and reduce spills since 2011. Mismanagement and corruption left little accomplished for the first several years of the agreement and, while progress has been made under the administration of CEO Michael Thurmond, the county was still a long way from meeting the requirements when the original deadline passed in June. 

A modified consent decree is currently being negotiated.