WASHINGTON, D.C. — DeKalb County, Ga., agreed to make major improvements to its sanitary sewer systems in an effort to eliminate unauthorized overflows of untreated sewage, the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced. In addition, DeKalb will pay a civil penalty of $453,000, to be split evenly between the United States and the state of Georgia, and implement a supplemental environmental project valued at $600,000 that will provide additional environmental benefits to the local community. The consent decree resolves the joint federal and state complaint filed at the same time alleging violations of the Clean Water Act and the Georgia Water Quality Control Act.
DeKalb’s sanitary sewer system serves more than 500,000 people. The wastewater collection and transmission system which DeKalb owns and operates includes approximately 2,600 miles of sewer lines, 55,000 manholes, and 66 lift stations. This is a sanitary sewer system designed to convey only municipal sewage, not stormwater.
The consent decree provides for targeted injunctive relief for priority areas, consisting primarily of the most aged sewer pipes. The major features of the consent decree relating to the sanitary sewer system will require DeKalb to identify and quantify overflows of untreated sewage and their causes; to identify, delineate, assess, and rehabilitate all priority areas within 8-1/2 years; and improve its management, operation, and maintenance programs to prevent future overflows and respond to overflows when they occur. DeKalb has estimated that the injunctive relief and other related improvements may cost approximately $700 million.
As part of the settlement, DeKalb agreed to conduct a stream cleanup project at an estimated cost of $600,000. The cleanup will focus on removal of trash and debris from segments of the South River, South Fork Peachtree Creek, and Snapfinger Creek. DeKalb will encourage the public to join in the stream cleanup project.
The Justice Department and EPA, often joined by the states, already entered into settlements with numerous municipalities including Atlanta; Baltimore; Hamilton County (Cincinnati), Ohio; Jefferson County (Birmingham), and Mobile, Ala.; Knoxville and Nashville, Tenn.; Louisville, Ky.; Miami, Fla.; New Orleans; and Sanitation District Number 1 of Northern Kentucky.
The proposed consent decree with DeKalb County is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.