ATLANTA — The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) proposed an amendment to a 1999 Consent Decree that would give the City of Atlanta additional time to complete the limited remaining repairs needed to eliminate sanitary sewer overflows and ensure Clean Water Act compliance. Atlanta has already completed the majority of the work required under the 1999 Consent Decree to address water quality violations, reducing sanitary sewer overflows by an estimated 97 percent since 2004 at a cost of $1.5 billion. The current proposal would extend the deadline to complete the estimated $445 million in remaining work from July 1, 2014, to July 1, 2027.
The proposed extension would reduce the financial burden on Atlanta ratepayers who are already paying some of the highest rates in the country, and allow the city to simultaneously address competing priorities to improve its drinking water system.
Atlanta has also completed all work required under a 1998 Consent Decree to address combined sewer overflows, which discharge excess wastewater directly into waterways during wet weather events. This work was completed by the 2009 deadline at a cost of an additional $760 million, and included separating portions of the sewer system, building large underground tunnels to capture stormwater for treatment, and disinfecting combined sewer overflows. As part of the 1998 Consent Decree, Atlanta also successfully implemented a $25 million Supplemental Environmental Project to acquire and preserve greenway areas surrounding waterways in metro Atlanta.
The proposed modification to the 1999 Consent Decree will be lodged with the U.S. District Court in Atlanta and is subject to a 30-day public comment period. After considering and responding to comments received, the United States will determine whether to proceed with the proposed extension and, if so, move to enter it with the Court. Court approval is required before any modification would be effective.