City Government Bellwood Quarry

Published on March 31st, 2016 |

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Rains coming; but solutions for dealing with storm water remain elusive

Here come the rains—Thursday and Friday—and that begs the question will it rain enough to cause some flooding of Peachtree Creek and Atlanta Memorial Park?

And, will it possibly result in a spill of sewage into south Buckhead’s creeks, bubbling up from manholes and contaminating parkland, playground and backyards? Time will tell.

The Bellwood Quarry in northwest Atlanta once was considered for use to store storm water.

The Bellwood Quarry in northwest Atlanta once was considered for use to store storm water.

One thing for sure, a long-discussed possible solution to the city’s storm water problems—providing enough storage capacity to handle runoff from major storms—was put to rest for good this past week when City Council approved moving forward to use the Bellwood Quarry as a reservoir for drinking water rather than a possible holding tank for storm water.

There are still some who may feel that the Bellwood Quarry is more needed for storm water storage capacity than as an emergency drinking water reserve. But even one of the early strong proponents of that use has backed somewhat away from pursuit of that argument.

On Nov. 27, 2003, BuckheadView’s editor wrote a Page 1 story in The Story newspapers (of which he at the time was editor) that said “Justin Wiedeman proposed using the Bellwood Quarry in northwest Atlanta as a massive storage facility that could store up to a billion gallons of storm water overflow, which he described as a storage capacity beyond anything that can be anticipated.”

At the time, Wiedeman was a principal of Wiedeman & Singleton engineering firm and a volunteer member of the value engineering team for the city and its Watershed Management programs to

The Story newspaper edition from November, 2003.

The Story newspaper edition from November, 2003.

deal with combined sewer overflow and storm water flooding problems.

The article said Wiedeman told the city’s Utilities Committee then “the present plan does not provide flood control for the city because the tunnels are on the perimeter instead of the interior, where they would provide flood control in the city.

“He said that to meet all the long-term objectives, this should be a storm water project, not just a sewer project. ‘We only have one chance to get this right’ Wiedeman told the committee. ‘Justg to separate the pipes and not deal with storm water flooding is irresponsible’.”

Wiedeman’s proposal at the time included using both the quarry and the proposed major trunk tunnels with a system of feeder tunnels that would stretch from the trunk tunnels to the primary flooding areas within the core of the city.

That was then and this is now, almost 13 years later. Storm water flooding remains a major problem and storage capacity remains a major topic of discussion. Drinking water has not been a problem, although it may be someday.

But after City Council action this past week, the project that will provide Atlanta with an insurance policy against contamination of its drinking water source gets started next week with about 160

Justin Wiedeman

Justin Wiedeman

explosive blasts over the next four months, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story.

Crews on April 6 will begin blasting through granite at Bellwood Quarry that will eventually hold 2.4 billion gallons of raw drinking water—a reserve that is enough to provide 1.2 million people with water for a minimum of 30 days, should the Chattahoochee River ever be off limits due to contamination or drought, the AJC reported.

Right now, the city has only about three days of raw water in reserve for all of Atlanta, which includes about 475,000 residents, the busiest airport in the world and corporate giants.

A recent study estimated the cost of running out of drinking water at $100 million per day, which makes the $300 million quarry project critical Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management’s Commissioner Jo Ann Macrina told the AJC.

The quarry is the top project in watershed’s $1 billion, five-year capital improvement plan, and is scheduled for completion in 2017. A majority of the projects in the plan will be funded by the

The granite walls of the Bellwood Quarry.

The granite walls of the Bellwood Quarry.

Municipal Option Sales Tax, passed by voters earlier this month, along with water and sewer rates.

Crews will bore a five-mile long tunnel through granite, from the quarry to the river, passing through the Hemphill Water Treatment Plant. The $10 million deep-bore tunneling machine is being constructed in Ohio specifically for this project, and will be moved to Georgia this summer on 70 semi-trucks, then assembled inside the quarry.

The drill bit is made of diamond and will be 12 feet in diameter. It will create a hole 10 feet wide, the AJC reported. Atlanta will own the machine after the project is complete.

Councilman Alex Wan told the AJC the project is a huge investment for the city — and worth it.

“The lack of water can choke off a metropolis faster than anything,” Wan said. “It is a significant investment, but I think the insurance and safety it will provide the city is commensurate with that investment.”

Councilman Howard Shook agreed: “What’s at stake here is worldwide headlines.”

On Friday, crews will begin using dynamite to blast four, 400-foot deep shafts down to where the tunnel will be drilled. Each blast will create a 10-foot crater in the granite. Four shafts will be blasted out to provide air in tunnel for crews operating the drilling machine. The drilling comes later, starting in September.

The answer for sufficient storage capacity to deal with storm water flooding will have to wait….as it has for more than a dozen years.

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    One Response to Rains coming; but solutions for dealing with storm water remain elusive

    1. Al Bartell says:

      A storm water flooding and runoff plan is critical to the future of our city. The public policy process to deliver and fund a plan must be the critical issue of the mayoral election.

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