Commentary The playground at Atlanta Memorial Park during a flood situation that dumps fecal matter in the area.

Published on February 15th, 2016 |

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Mayor Reed: Commit to plan to fix Buckhead sewer pollution by Feb. 29

Mayor Kasim Reed:

Buckhead residents want a real action plan and firm commitment for a fix to sewage polluting our parks—such as Atlanta Memorial Park—and residential neighborhoods. And we want it prior to the March 1 vote on extending the 1 percent added tax for Watershed Management.

The city reportedly received $750 million from the original 1 percent tax with absolutely no apparent fix to the sewer contamination problem south Buckhead endurs every time it rains.

Mayor Kasim Reed, step up or risk losing March 1 vote.

Mayor Kasim Reed, step up or risk losing March 1 vote.

Without a firm plan and city commitment to solve this problem, why should Buckhead support an extension of that tax on March 1?

Buckhead may only represent about 20 percent of the taxpaying residents of Atlanta. But Buckhead accounts for more than 45 percent of the city’s revenues—including the revenues from the 1 percent tax for Watershed Management capital improvements.

As usual, Buckhead has not received its fair share in return.

This most certainly is an issue upon which Buckhead taxpaying residents should rise up and say enough. We are not going to put up with our children playing in playgrounds covered with feces and our parks and greenspaces fouled by raw sewage spewing from manholes and flowing in our streams.

As an editor for three community publications covering Buckhead, for more than a decade I have written about the pollution of Tanyard Creek and Tanyard Park and Peachtree Creek and Atlanta Memorial Park. The pollution didn’t start with my reporting. But despite years of promises from the city, it hasn’t been curtailed either.

Your predecessor Mayor Shirley Franklin, the self-claimed “sewer mayor”, did little to solve the sewer contamination problems in the neighborhood streams and parks. But she spent millions of taxpayer dollars, even building a new tunnel that only partially works as promised.

Your administration built the Liddell Drive Equalization Facility [which opened in July 2014 and is part of the city’s Peachtree Creek Capacity Relief

Flooding of Peachtree Creek after heavy rains along Northside Drive often carries with creek waters excessive sewage pollutioon.

Flooding of Peachtree Creek after heavy rains along Northside Drive often carries with creek waters excessive sewage pollutioon.

Project). It was supposed to solve the problems in Peachtree Creek and Memorial Park. Most residents in the area believe the problems have gotten worse since the facility came online.

Under your administration the Department of Watershed Management found a way to have fewer illegal “overflows,” “discharges” or “spills”, whatever you wish to call them, by simply changing the definitions.

This is a major public health issue. It is the type of issue that gives a city a bad reputation around the world, like the drinking water issue in Flint, Michigan. It also demands the attention of the Fulton County Health Department.

(See the companion piece to this commentary, written by Registered Professional Engineer Justin Wiedeman, which analyzes the Memorial Park pollution issue and its cause. Click here.)

Our drinking water may be clean. But stinking feces in playgrounds and on golf courses and walking paths, floating in streams and pouring out of manholes is just as bad as dirty drinking water and just as much a health hazard.

No matter how many new sports arenas you built, Mr. Mayor, and Ferris wheels you bring to the city, or streetcars you put in service in an attempt to lure businesses, tourists and residents to Atlanta, this issue could ruin it all. Who wants to live in a toilet bowl?

Buckhead resident and Post 2 At-Large City Councilwoman Mary Norwood, along with fellow Council members Felicia Moore and Andre Dickens, placed a resolution before the City Utilities

Atlanta Memorial Park often is flooded and polluted with sewage after heavy rains.

Atlanta Memorial Park often is flooded and polluted with sewage after heavy rains.

Committee earlier this month to force the administration and Department of Watershed
Management to immediately address the problem with a plan to be presented within 90 days.

An amended version of that resolution goes before the full City Council this Monday, Feb. 15. (The reason it was amended was to deal with the city’s unauthorized change of definitions of sewer “discharges” and “combined sewer overflows.”)

We support the efforts to force the city to come up with a real plan and commitment for dealing with this severe health hazard. But waiting 90 days for a plan and commitment is too long.

Voters will go to the polls March 1 and say yay or nay to extending the 1 percent special tax for Watershed Management. The voters have a right to know exactly how that money is going to be spent and how it is going to correct the outrageous pollution in south Buckhead.

As Mary Norwood said in a recent community meeting, just give $150 million to $200 million of the $750 million raised through the 1 percent tax to solve this Buckhead problem. That is only a little more than 20 percent of the tax revenues from that MOST.

If there is no proper answer—a real plan and commitment to solve this health problem—by Feb. 29 (before they go to the polls) residents of Buckhead should send the city a strong message and

Most of the passive side of Memorial park is often flooded after a rain and including pollution by human feces.

Most of the passive side of Memorial park is often flooded after a rain and including pollution by human feces.

overwhelmingly vote NO to sending more money to Watershed Management.

(Editor’s Note: For our part, BuckheadView has asked three people who have been deeply involved with this issue—a City Council member, a registered professional engineer and a citizen who has worked diligently to improve the system—to write their visions how to correct the problems. We will publish those tomorrow to provide some food for thought.)

John Schaffner, BuckheadView owner/editor

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