Originally created 05/18/98

City sewage may be stored underground



ATLANTA -- The city of Atlanta wants to build underground concrete facilities to store raw sewage and stormwater and then treat the material to meet mandates for cleaning up its sewage problems.

The proposal is contained in a 110-page consent decree between city officials and their environmental adversaries -- the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state Environmental Protection Division and the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper -- to correct the shortcomings of the city's combined sewer overflows.

The agreement gives details of the settlement announced in U.S. District Court in April by the various parties.

The city's cleanup proposal will be considered today by the Atlanta City Council. If approved, the EPA, EPD and Riverkeeper still must approve the plan.

The combined sewer overflows have been discharging untreated sewage into city creeks that feed the Chattahoochee River.

Atlanta's seven overflows act as relief valves to keep the city's antiquated combined sewers from bursting when it rains. The facilities discharge a mixture of sewage and stormwater from the sewers into city streets.

But discharging untreated sewage into waterways is a violation of the federal Clean Water Act. U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash found Atlanta liable in November for discharging sewage with high levels of fecal material and other pollutants into its rivers and streams.

The city, according to the consent decree, proposes building storage and treatment facilities at four of its overflows.

Some environmentalists, however, are concerned about the proposal.