Sewer spills create stink, health concerns

Heavy rain falls have created issues for the county’s sewer system in the past.

On April 19, rainfall from thunderstorms overloaded the county’s aging sewer system and caused several sanitary sewer overflows.

From April 19 to April 20, county officials reported 24 sanitary sewer overflows, resulting in approximately 400,000 gallons of spilled sewerage.

Several sewer spill reports did not include the number of gallons spilled. The number of gallons spilled is expected to increase once the county completes its investigation and updates the reports. The majority of reported sewer spills were caused by “heavy rain infiltrating into the sewer system,” according to reports and are classified as “major” sewer spills which are spills of more than 10,000 gallons.

More than 86,000 gallons entered into Sugar Creek from a manhole at 302 2nd Avenue in Decatur. Approximately 102,000 gallons entered into North Fork Peachtree Creek at 3120 Briarcliff Road and 19,000 gallons spilled in the back yard of DeKalb resident Ranee Bassett before entering into Burnt Fork Creek.

The Champion obtained copies of email messages sent by Bassett to another DeKalb resident detailing her issues.

“I am very tired of dealing with this,” Bassett said. “It’s very stressful for me.”
Bassett said she is currently dealing with health issues and the sewer spills are a cause for concern.

“My back yard smells very bad…I want to take care of my health issues. I went out to my back yard to see toilet paper and some plastic bags all over. This is not good for my health at all. This issue needs to be [resolved] very soon,” Bassett said.

In 2011, DeKalb County entered into an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency and Georgia Environmental Protection Division—referred to as a consent decree.  The consent decree requires the county to clean, repair, enlarge and maintain its sanitary sewer pipes so sewer overflows are reduced. The deadline to implement changes under the guidelines of the consent decree is January 2020.

DeKalb officials said they plan to improve the county’s sewer system. DeKalb county Department of Watershed Management scheduled an open house community meeting in Brookhaven to discuss upcoming sewer repair projects, including the Package III Gravity Sewer System Rehabilitation, Replacement and Construction Project, which includes the installation of new and larger wastewater pipes, according to county officials.  The project will begin this summer in the Brookhaven area.

The project is part of DeKalb County’s $1.345 billion Capital Improvement Program. Projects are designed to reduce sanitary sewer system overflows and increase service capacity.

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