City Government

Published on February 25th, 2016 |


Reed vetoes Council action to stop parkland sewage spills

Within a few hours Tuesday of Mayor Kasim Reed’s administrative team committing to major efforts to eliminate sewage spills from polluting Peachtree Creek and Atlanta Memorial Park, the mayor vetoed a City Council resolution seeking urgent steps to eliminate the public health hazard.

Mayor Kasim Reed vetoes resolution to force city to clean up sewage in creeks and parks.

Mayor Kasim Reed vetoes resolution to force city to clean up sewage in creeks and parks.

During the Tuesday morning session of the city Utilities Committee, Mayor Reed’s Deputy Chief of Staff Katrina Taylor Park announced that Reed promised an aggressive approach to solving the sewage pollution problems that have plagued the park and Peachtree Creek basin.

That afternoon, the mayor’s veto letter was sent to the president and members of City Council, including those members who heard the earlier message at the Utilities Committee meeting.

In his veto letter, Reed said the resolution passed by City Council Feb. 15—which was introduced by Council members Mary Norwood, Felicia Moore and Andre Dickens—“falsely implies that the city is creating environmental hazards and is not in compliance with the law.”

In particular, Reed wrote, “Attachments 1-4 to the Resolution use inaccurate legal definitions and contain numerous errors. These attachments describe discharges from the city’s combined sewer system as combined sewer overflow (CSO) events, in contradiction of the definition of a ‘CSO event’ in the city’s permits and the Environment Protection Agency’s (EPA) mandatory CSO Control Policy.”

The mayor further stated that the attachments, which were not prepared by the city’s Department of Watershed Management, “misrepresent the size and duration of the discharge events.”

The letter adds, “The city is in compliance with its two federal Consent Decrees and operates its wastewater system in conformity with its federally-required permits.”

Pointing out that the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) had recently reissued the city’s wastewater control facility permits, Reed wrote, “The city’s new permits change the

Polluted waters in Peachtree Creek during the Dec. 24 major flooding.

Polluted waters in Peachtree Creek during the Dec. 24 major flooding.

terminology from ‘CSO discharge’ to ‘discharge’.”

“This revision does not alter the practical, legal effects of the permits, but clarifies the permit language, in line with mandate of the U.S. Congress that all permits conform to the EPA’s CSO Control Policy,” Reed concluded.

He asked City Council to sustain his veto of the resolution. Council will likely vote on this at its next meeting, March 7.

“The City Council is working with the administration to develop a new resolution which will be more general in its language, but no less resolved in its intent,” Councilwoman Norwood told BuckheadView.

“While there is a disagreement at City Hall in terminology, we all agree that it is unconscionable to have this degree of pollution in our city’s neighborhoods, creeks, and parks,” Norwood explained. “We are all committed to fixing this public health hazard that is plaguing our citizens. Their health and welfare is our responsibility and we all take that responsibility seriously.”

Buckhead resident and At-Large Councilwoman Norwood ran against Reed in the mayoral race, which Reed won by a slim margin. As long as they have been members of City Council, both

The flooding of polluted waters often goes right up to homes in south Buckhead.

The flooding of polluted waters often goes right up to homes in south Buckhead.

Norwood and Moore have had disputes with Atlanta mayors—especially Reed—involving challenges to city budget practices and over mayoral authority and transparency.

In this case, Norwood and Moore took the lead in an attempt to force the administration to recognize that there is indeed a major problem that exists—particularly associated with major rainfalls—in the Peachtree Creek basin and south Buckhead’s Memorial Park and to present a plan to City Council within 90 days to address those sewage discharges.

It appears from the commitments made before the Utilities Committee earlier on Tuesday, the resolution had its impact in moving the administration to urgent actions to deal with the sewage pollution problems.

However, to some observers, the veto of the council resolution seems to be the mayor’s way of sending a message that he is in charge and will call the shots. It remains to be seen whether City Council will sustain or override the mayor’s veto.

The next meeting of the City Council is in two weeks, leaving some time to work out an agreement that will benefit the city and its residents in this problem situation.

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