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In 1998 and 1999, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD), completed settlement negotiations in two lawsuits filed against the City of Atlanta to improve its wastewater collection and transmission systems. This resulted in the recording of the Consent Decree (CD) related to Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) and the First Amended Consent Decree (FACD) associated with Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs), respectively. The City's seven existing CSO control facilities experience a combined 300 discharge events per year. Additionally, over 550 SSOs (unpermitted discharges and spills to dry land) are experienced annually.

The City wastewater collection and transmission systems include over 1500 miles of sewer mains and 33,000 manholes. Fifteen percent of the system is comprised of combined sewers while 85% of the system consists of separate sanitary sewers. Six other governmental entities contract for wastewater treatment by the City including the Cities of Hapeville, College Park and East Point, and DeKalb, Clayton and Fulton Counties. Fifty-five percent of the sewage flows are generated by Atlanta and 45% by the wholesale agencies. The total benefiting population is 1.2 million.

This paper overviews the City of Atlanta's challenges in complying, to date, with some of the 900 plus interim and final consent decree compliance milestones specifically in the areas of:

financial capability assessment and affordability;

substitution of a major capital project identified by the City as a priority project and included in the initial Wastewater Collection and Transmission Systems Capital Improvement Program;

revision of the scope specified in FACD for water quality monitoring of spills to receiving waters; and,

modification of the capital projects Prioritization Plan previously submitted and approved by EPA and EPD pursuant to FACD.

Furthermore, this paper provides the City's perspective on negotiating proposals to EPA and EPD for revisions to consent decree provisions in order to ensure a more affordable, better engineered project for protection of the environment and public health without bankrupting the City or its rate payers.

Full compliance with the Consent Decree and First Amended Consent Decree is required by November 2007 and July 2014, respectively.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2005-01-01

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