Public Health DSC_0581

Published on March 8th, 2016 |

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Mayor Reed, DWM team tour Memorial Park sewage problem areas

Mayor Kasim Reed along with Department of Watershed Management Director Jo Ann Macrina, her management team and engineers took a tour of the newly manicured west side of Atlanta

Mayor Reed arrives at the playground area in Atlanta Memorial Park to begin his tour of sewage spill problem sites.

Mayor Reed arrives at the playground area in Atlanta Memorial Park to begin his tour of sewage spill problem sites.

Memorial Park Tuesday afternoon to see and hear first-hand about the pollution problems that sometimes inundates the park and children’s playground.

They were joined by an entourage of Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy and neighborhood leaders, City Council members Yolanda Adrean and Mary Norwood and several members of the media, riding in golf carts from hot spot to hot spot where sewage often spill out onto the parkland and residents’ yards.

One of those residents was Jason Hammond, who stuck close to Mayor Reed during the almost two-hour tour, explaining how Peachtree Creek overflows its banks into the park and neighbors yards during very heavy rains and raw sewage often spews out of manholes throughout the park and next to his home on the park’s edge at Howell Mill Road.

The mayor promised that his administration is going to address the problems in the south Buckhead neighborhood and will put $30 million to $35 million into doing just that.

However, when DWM Director Macina was told by Reed to answer a question about how the problems were going to be attacked and how long it would take to correct them, she said one of the first projects is to clean out and replace a 90-inch main sewer line that runs along Peachtree Creek in the park. She said that alone would cost about

Department of Watershed Management Director Jo Ann Macrina addresses the crowd at the park before the tour.

Department of Watershed Management Director Jo Ann Macrina addresses the crowd at the park before the tour.

$30 million and take about 18 months.

And the crowd of more than 60 was told this is not a problem that is going to be solved overnight. And some in the crowd following the mayor around the park are not convinced that the proposed short-term fixes are going to solve the problems long term.

In addition to promising more than $30 million in projects designed to fix the sewage overflows, Reed pledged to work with neighborhood leaders every step of the way. The mayor said he first met with people from the community two weeks ago, and promised then to personally tour the area with his leadership team.

“I thought an appropriate first step would be for me to come out and see it myself,” Reed said. “Thus far, we have invested $45 million in this corridor. We are prepared to invest another $30-35 million. But we want to make sure when we make these investments, that they are consistent with what the neighborhood wants as well,” he added.

Stating this fix is a partnership, Reed also said he wants to make sure the city’s Watershed Management plans “are consistent with Councilwoman Adrean’s plans.”

In addition to replacing almost two miles of the 90-inch main sewer line, other proposed short-term fixes include moving the park’s playground, raising manhole covers so the creek waters don’t

Mayor Kasim Reed listens to remarks by Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy President Kurt Billings as the Conservancy's co-founder Roxanne Smith (in red jacket) prepares to talk.

Mayor Kasim Reed listens to remarks by Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy President Kurt Billings as the Conservancy’s co-founder Roxanne Smith (in red jacket) prepares to talk. To the right are City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean and Parks and Recreation Commisioner Amy Phuong.

seep into the system, and installing flow monitors throughout the park.

Councilwoman Norwood, who has taken the lead in the past several weeks in publicly discussing the problems at Atlanta Memorial Park, told BuckheadView she has been told by engineering professionals that raising the manholes will not solve the problem and could actually exasperate the problem of sewage being pushed up through the manhole covers.

The sewer main project is part of the long-standing federal court-ordered consent decree with the city to fix its aged and leaky sewer system. Macrina said the sewer main project had been scheduled for 2019, but the project was moved up due to the recent uproar over sewage spills.

The city has until 2027 to complete all the mandated work under the consent decree.

The City Council last month passed a resolution giving DWM 90 days to address the issue and report back to council. The measure was vetoed by Reed’s office because it implied that the city was out of compliance with the consent decree, according to a spokesperson. Reed then held his meeting with neighborhood leaders.

Councilwoman Adrean has since submitted an alternate resolution at Monday’s council meeting, which essentially calls for the same actions within the same time frame as the earlier resolution. That resolution was referred to the City Utilities Committee for consideration.

Wednesday at 1 p.m. the Utilities Committee is holding a public work session with Watershed Management staff and members of the mayor’s administrative team to further discuss plans DWM

Left to right: City Councilwoman Mary Norwood chats with neighborhood residents Gail Driebe and Jason Holland.

Left to right: City Councilwoman Mary Norwood chats with neighborhood residents Gail Driebe and Jason Holland.

has for solving the sewage spill problems at Atlanta Memorial Park and other areas of the city as well.

Kirk Billings, president of the Memorial Park Conservancy, said he thinks the mayor’s plan makes sense. Billings said the conservancy board is concerned about several issues, but the sewage spills are the top priority. “They have to be solved first.”

Holland, whose home sits next to the Howell Mill Road bridge over Peachtree Creek as well as two manhole covers that too-often overflow with raw sewage, said the mayor’s approach seems “reasonable. What I really like is getting community buy-in,” Holland said.

Holland and other neighbors around the park told BuckheadView the whole park area was abuzz with city trucks and workers getting the part spruced up for the mayor’s visit.

One very obvious fix was to the pathway leading from Wesley Road, which borders the park on the south, to the playground area. Recently observed as a dirt and mud pathway, it had been rebuilt and paved with porous rubber tire pieces.

Halland told BuckheadView that the parks people had been out the day before and had manicured the park near his home and other areas where the

Top photo shows the new pathway to the park playground that appeared almost overnight before the mayor's visit. Below, photo shot a week before.

Top photo shows the new pathway to the park playground that appeared almost overnight before the mayor’s visit. Below, photo shot a week before.

tour would visit. On a recent visit to Holland’s home, BuckheadView observed that the grass in that part of the park was very high.

BuckheadView also noted that Howell Mill Road in front of Holland’s home appeared to have just been visited by the city’s street sweeper, which Holland confirmed had just taken place before the mayor’s visit.

One of the problems the city often points to as a reason the sewer pipes get clogged up and don’t function properly is the dirt and trash that builds up along the curbs of streets and then gets pushed into the stormwater drains. One way to correct that is frequent street sweeping operations.

 

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