City Government

Published on February 24th, 2016 |


No plan yet, but big city commitment to stop park sewage spills

The Tuesday, Feb. 23, meeting of the city’s Utilities Committee did not produce the promised short- and long-term plans for dealing with sewage pollution in south Buckhead’s Memorial Park. But it did produce a firm commitment from Mayor Kasim Reed and his administration to put major resources to bear to deal with the public health problem.

A resident addresses the city's Utilities Committee Feb. 23 during its regular meeting.

A resident addresses the city’s Utilities Committee Feb. 23 during its regular meeting.

Following a Monday meeting with leadership of the Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy, neighborhood leaders and Dist. 8 Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean, Mayor Reed promised an aggressive

approach to solving the sewage pollution problems that have plagued the park and Peachtree Creek basin.

It may have been the commitment Buckhead residents were wanting to hear just days before heading to the polls March 1 to vote on the extension of the MOST one percent sales tax to fund capital programs of the city’s Department of Watershed Management.

What Mayor Reed’s representatives announced at the Tuesday Utilities Committee meeting at City Hall was:

Mayor Reed has already directed the city’s Department of Watershed Management to accelerate the $30 million Peachtree Trunk Stabilization Capital Improvement Project. That project was in the pipeline for completion by 2025, but will now be started this year and completed by 2017.

Within the next 10 days, Mayor Reed, senior members of the administration and expert engineers will meet with Conservancy members and neighborhood leaders to tour key problem areas inside Memorial Park and along Peachtree Creek.

Dist. 8 City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean, right, and Dist. 6 Councilman Alex Wan during the Utilities Committee meeting Feb. 23.

Dist. 8 City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean, right, and Dist. 6 Councilman Alex Wan during the Utilities Committee meeting Feb. 23.

Following the site visit, the engineers will develop a list of recommended solutions for consideration by the Mayor, the City Council and the Conservancy leadership team.

A work session has been scheduled for March 2 at 1 p.m. with the Utilities Committee, representatives of the mayor’s office and the Department of Watershed Management. The session will focus on developing formal plans for addressing the sewage pollution problems at Memorial Park and other areas of the city.

Committing city resources is not going to be an issue in addressing the problem.

The mayor has assigned his senior advisor, Melissa Mullinax, to work closely with the Conservancy, neighborhoods, Councilwoman Adrean and Watershed Management to oversee progress on dealing with the problem.

Department of Watershed Management Commissioner Jo Ann Macrina will be involved in the planning and execution, and Mayor Reed

From left, Utilities Committee member Councilman C.T. Martin, chairman Natalyn Archibong and Copncilman Howard Shook.

From left, Utilities Committee member Councilman C.T. Martin, chairman Natalyn Archibong and Councilman Howard Shook.

will personally take the leadership role with the team, both in discussions and in finding solutions.

“The health and safety of Atlanta residents is this administration’s top priority,” said Mayor Reed’s Deputy Chief of Staff Katrina Taylor Park to members of the Utilities Committee Tuesday morning.

“We have been and continue to be focused on fixing the sewage overflows in our creeks and parks,” Park told the committee members. “Our approach is a holistic one—looking at the entire system, not just Memorial Park. It can be both expensive and time-consuming.”

Councilwoman Adrean, who represents the part of Buckhead where Memorial Park is located, told BuckheadView the mayor called her Monday morning and told her he wanted to meet with the Conservancy leadership and other neighborhood leaders that afternoon.

Adrean said Conservancy Executive Director Catherine Spillman, former board president Roxanne Smith, present president Kurt Billings, park neighbor Jason Holland, and neighborhood resident Craig Pendergrast were among the 10 who attended the meeting.

Adrean said the mayor made it clear he wanted to earn their (the Conservancy and neighborhood leaders) trust and promised to create an accountability board. He promised to meet with them at least twice.

“It sounded like a strong commitment to the community,” Adrean told BuckheadView.

John Adams, who lives in the Memorial Park area of Buckhead addresses the Utilities Committee about sewage in the park.

John Adams, who lives in the Memorial Park area of Buckhead addresses the Utilities Committee about sewage in the park.

She said the mayor also committed to conversations about the Liddell Peachtree Creek Capacity Relief Storage Tank and Pump Station. The station was completed in 2014 at a cost of $45 million and was supposed to help solve combined sewer overflows of raw sewage into Peachtree Creek by storing up to 10 million gallons of water in the system.

Residents in the area claim there has actually been an increase in sewage pollution problems since the Liddell facility was completed and became operational.

Adrean thanked the Memorial Park Conservancy for its effort to clean up the park and in seeking city commitment to deal with the sewage pollution problems in the park.

Mullinax told the Utilities Committee member she will be guided by the Conservancy in identifying the “hot spots” that need attention in the park.

Early in the meeting, two residents who live around Atlanta Memorial Park had the opportunity to address the Utilities Committee. John Adams, who decided to use “safe” terminology, said, “Here we are dumping stuff in what we consider to be a world-class city. This is an ugly problem….We need to deal with it.”

Craig Pendergrast, a water specialist lawyer, said, “The problem is created by all of us. It is vital that the public be engaged by the DWM to deal with the problems.” However, he said, “Efforts to engage with DWM are often met with obstacles. That has to stop.”

Buckhead’s Dist. 7 City Councilman Howard Shook, who is vice chair of the Utilities Committee, told DWM Commissioner Macrina he wants an update March 2 on the status of DeKalb County’s consent agenda and urged Macrina and her staff to be “better prepared” with information when presenting to the committee.

Dist. 10 Councilman C.T. Martin wanted to know if he could get information on other parks in the city where spills are taking place. He was told that the DWM report March 2 will not just focus on one area of concern.

Turning to the March 1 election and the MOST ballot item, Adrean told BuckhadView, “For the sake of Atlanta citizens, the MOST is the most efficient way to get the million people who put stress on the infrastructure needs of the city to help pay for the maintenance of that infrastructure,” through a penny sales tax on every dollar they spend in the city.

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