Advisory Panel members in attendance were Wayne Clough, John Hall, Cecil Lue-Hing,
Mike Marcotte, Larry Roth, Billy Turner and Nancy Wheatley. Bruce Beck joined
the first hour and a half of the meeting via conference call. Jeff Hilliard
could not attend.
Dr. Wayne Clough called the meeting to order at 8:30 AM by welcoming the panel
members and thanking them for their willingness to give their time and talents
to this effort. He then asked each of them to introduce themselves and give
a brief bio of their education and work in water and sewer systems. (Bios available
from Lynn Durham at email@example.com.)
After the introductions Dr. Clough reiterated that the panelists are working
pro bono on this and have agreed not to be involved in any City of Atlanta projects
so they can remain unbiased.
Dr. Clough stated that the Advisory Panel is to provide advice to Mayor Shirley
Franklin while being mindful of constraining parameters such as making sure
the recommendations are technically feasible, economically feasible and can
it fit into the time constraints imposed by the consent decree (which mandates
work to be finished by November 2007).
Greg Giornelli, Mayor Franklin’s policy advisor, then thanked the panel on
behalf of Mayor Franklin. He said the Mayor wants to find the best method for
the City to address water quality because it has a huge impact on Atlanta’s
future. She is looking to this panel for technical advice that is independent.
She wants the panel to review alternatives to the City’s plan – including alternatives
proposed by City consultants as well as outside ideas. She wants them to look
at the time, cost and water quality considerations of the City plan and let
her know if it is “off base” or on target. She also wants them to take quality
of life factors for city residents and workers into consideration.
Mr. Giornelli added that the City has a wonderful opportunity because of all
the expertise on this Advisory Panel and he invited the Panel to look beyond
the issue of the combined sewer system if they would like to.
Dr. Clough then explained that the panel would spend the first meeting primarily
as listeners to learn as much as they can about the history and design of Atlanta’s
combined sewer system.
John Griffen, the deputy commissioner of the City’s Public Works Department,
began his presentation on the history of Atlanta’s sewer system. He said that
Atlanta has an old sewer system which dates back to the 1880s. The sewers in
the combined sewer system were completed in the 1920’s. The Atlanta community
grew from Five Points outward and the combined sewers go about three and a half
to four miles out from Five Points. Some of Atlanta’s sewers are at least 100
years old. Atlanta has 2,200 miles of sewer and 85% of those are separated,
which leaves 15% or 330 miles, of combined sewers.
In dry weather, the collection system conveys all wastewater flow to a water
reclamation center (WRC) for treatment. During wet weather, the combined flows
(wastewater and storm water) exceed the collection system capacity, resulting
in combined sewer overflows (CSOs) at the City’s six CSO facilities. The CSOs
occur about 60+ times per year at the West area CSO facilities, and about 20+
times per year at the East area CSO facilities. An existing storage tunnel in
the East area (about 30 million gallons of storage) is the reason that the East
area CSOs are reduced from 60+ to 20+ per year. The existing CSO facilities
provide screening and chlorination prior to discharge to local streams. During
heavy rainfalls, the peak rate of the CSOs sometimes exceed the screening capacity
of the facilities, at which point some flow bypasses the screening, but all
flow is chlorinated.
The CSO area population area is 106,400 and the city’s population is 416,000
but the CSO’s are in the central business district where sewers were constructed
in stream beds.
In the 1980s, low dissolved oxygen in the South River lead to CSO improvements
and those improvements worked. In 1988 the City of Atlanta funded a CSO management
study and in 1989 the EPD issued an order mandating that CSOs be controlled
or eliminated. In 1990, the EPD approved of the city’s CSO plan that included
screening and disinfection facilities at Tanyard, Clear Creek, Greensferry,
North Avenue and Utoy Creek.
Billy Turner asked what effect changes to the combined sewer system would have
on older buildings in the area and Mr. Griffin answered that the changes would
be very disruptive and expensive for older buildings because they would have
to make changes on the inside to work with the changes that would be taking
place on the outside.
Nancy Wheatley asked if they had looked at the possibility of taking the creeks
out of the sewers and Mr. Griffin said that there is no opportunity to do that
in the urban area.
Mike Marcotte asked about leveraging the separation projects into something
else such as major street reconstruction and Mr. Griffin said that there was
currently no opportunity to do that and they were trying to minimize impact.
Mitchell Griffin, project manager -- CSO Remedial Measures (PMT), continued
the presentation by discussing the consent decree, public concerns and the authorized
remedial measures plan. The Georgia Legislature passed a law in 1989 targeted
at Atlanta that required water discharges to meet water quality standards by
December 31, 1993. In 1995, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and downstream property
owners filed a lawsuit against the City claiming that the CSOs did not meet
water quality standards. In 1997, the EPA audited the CSOs, plants and sewers
and a judge ruleed that the CSOs caused violations of water quality standards.
In 1998, the City entered into a CSO consent decree.
The City held more than 100 public meetings. The number one public concern
expressed in those meetings was to separate the sewers. A one-year CSO System
Evaluation defined the water quality issues and improvement needs. The findings
included that wastewater characteristics differ at each CSO, disinfection reliability
improvements were needed, the first flush effect was not always pronounced,
the overflows were not toxic ? except for residual chlorine ? zinc and copper
were the metals of concern and the storm water had elevated fecal coliform and
(At this point in the meeting there was a prolonged break for a press conference
by Mayor Shirley Franklin in which she introduced the panel and announced her
goals for the group.)
Mitchell Griffin resumed his presentation after the press conference. He stated
that many CSO control technologies were reviewed including sewer separation,
inflow reduction techniques, source controls, sewer system optimization, storage
systems and treatment systems.
There were three options presented to the EPA/EPD: Sewer separation in all
six basins excluding the urban core (80% separation); Tunnel storage and treatment
system (0% separation); and Combination of separation and tunnel storage and
treatment (27% separation).
Option A would separate all the combined sewer area, except the downtown urban
core – resulting in separation of about 80% of the total combined sewer area.
The downtown urban core is located in three basins (North Avenue, Tanyard, and
Clear Creek). These basins would be partially separated; therefore the three
CSOs associated with these basins would remain in service. The other three basins
(Greensferry, McDaniel and Custer) would be fully separated, and their respective
three CSOs eliminated. A smaller tunnel storage system would be implemented
for the downtown core, and the combined sewage stored in the tunnels would be
treated at a new treatment facility (at R.M. Clayton site) or possibly could
be routed through the existing R.M. Clayton WRC. The combined sewage overflows
from the storage tunnel (average four per year) would be routed to the existing
three CSO facilities for screening, chlorination and dechlorination. The RMR
concluded this option could not be implemented by November 2007.
Option B, the tunnel storage and treatments system, would capture 98% of sanitary
flow and 85% of storm water flow. It would store and carry the combined flow
to new treatment facilities and discharge the treated flow to the Chattahoochee
or South Rivers. This option would comply with the limit of four overflows per
year average and can be constructed by 2007. The average four overflows per
year would be routed to the six CSO facilities for screening, chlorination and
Option C is the hybrid option of a combination of separation and tunnel storage
and treatment. It would capture 98% of sanitary sewage flow and 85% of storm
water flow. It stores and carries the combined flow to new treatment facilities
and discharges the treated flow to the Chattahoochee or South Rivers. It complies
with the four overflows per year average. It includes some separation in each
basin, totaling approximately 27% of the combined area. Because no full basins
are separated, none of the existing six CSO facilities are eliminated. The average
of four overflows per year of combined sewage would be routed to the six CSO
facilities for screening, chlorination and dechlorination. Option C was authorized
by EPA/EPD July 2001.
Each plan must be reviewed while looking at factors including the consent decree
deadline, affordability, water quality standards and quality of life considerations.
(Charts in PowerPoint presentation (page 25) compare the three options in the
above mentioned categories and another chart compares the three options for
pollutant reduction.) Option C was chosen because it achieves all federal and
state water quality standards, it is the most cost effective overall approach,
it can be completed by 2007, it reflects citizen advisory group opinion by initiating
sewer separation and it reduces overall pollutant load to local streams.
Ms. Wheatley asked about the perceived benefit of separation by the community.
Joe Basista, program manager (PMT), answered that the members of the citizen’s
advisory group are passionate that sewer separation is a quality of life issue.
And the City has said that complete separation is the ultimate goal, so the
consensus is that the City should just go ahead and separate fully.
Mr. Basista then led the presentation to discuss the authorized plan and the
next steps that are being taken. The EPA/EPD authorized the City’s plan in July
2001 and the City began its predesign process in August 2001. The tunnel predesign
was submitted in May 2002, the East Area CSO Treatment Facility plan and the
dechlorination for CSO Facilities are due in July, the West Area CSO Treatments
Facility begins in December 2002 and the sewer separation plan in due in September
City consultants are now in the process of refining the authorized plan. The
focus of the refinement is on the separation of multiple full CSO basins. The
City’s plan did not fully separate any basins or eliminate any CSO control facilities
and the EPA authorization specifically requested that the City consider separation
of full basins. Consultants are currently examining separation of multiple full
basins to eliminate several neighborhood CSO facilities. The refinement plan
needs to be completed by September 2002.
They are comparing sewer separation versus tunnel storage on the criteria of
cost, schedule, water quality and quality of life. They have completed separation
studies of three basins – Clear Creek, Greensferry and Stockade. This means
about 35% of the basins have separation plans.
Cost is a high priority but the schedule is the “gatekeeper.” The City is determined
to meet the consent decree schedule of November 2007 for completion. The City
has no intention of paying fines until the work is complete.
Mr. Basista compared sewer separation versus tunnel storage. Sewer separation
treats 100% wastewater and 0% of storm water. That meets the criteria of the
consent decree but must be approved by the EPA. Tunnel storage treats 98% wastewater
(with an average of four overflows per year) and 85% of storm water. You give
up treatment of storm water with full separation.
There are other possible refinement scenarios to the authorized plan from City
consultants and citizen activists. Some of those include plans by Justin Weideman
and Dr. Brooks. Mr. Basista said that all of them deserve to be looked at.
The consent decree does not address the total cost, the sources of funding
or storm water management. The City faces a significant financial challenge.
It has invested $1.1 billion to date and it would have to invest an estimated
$3 billion between 2002 and 2014 for the CSO Remedial Plan, the SSO Remedial
Plan and regulatory and other plans. There is no funding mechanism in place
to pay for this.
Storm water management is also part of the City’s long-term watershed enhancement
program but improvements will not be implemented under the refined authorized
plan. It is not required by the consent decree. Using water and sewer revenue
funds places an unfair burden on residential ratepayers, especially senior citizens,
fixed and low income families. Plus, the City Legal Department has said that
water and sewer revenue funds cannot be used for storm water improvements.
The next step in the process is for the complete predesign to be finished in
September 2002. Then the refinements must be approved by the EPA/EPD. The final
design schedule would begin in December 2002. Construction must start by March
2004 to meet the November 2007 consent decree date.
The Advisory Panel and a few staff members then adjourned to take a tour of
the Clear Creek CSO facility.
Upon returning from the tour, Dr. Clough launched a discussion of the panel’s
objectives and charge. It was determined that the Mayor needs the panel’s recommendations
by the end of September. The panel will meet a total of four times to craft
those recommendations. Dr. Clough said he expects the report to be relatively
brief and concise – perhaps fewer than 10 pages.
Mike Marcotte asked whether “the policy of the City is separation.” He was
told that is the long-term ambition of the City but that the Panel is not limited
in any way regarding that issue.
Cecil Lue-Hing asked how much does the City’s long-term policy of separation
impact the panel’s charge. Mr. Basista answered that the separation policy evolved
over time but it has always been a goal. The City would like to see the rest
of the combined sewer system separated and it has committed to 27% separation
of the existing combined sewers. If there is a higher percentage of separation
recommended by the Panel for the same cost, the City would certainly be ok with
that. But without other funding options, the City will have to raise the residential
rates 10% per year through 2014 and that will triple costs. There is no option
that is “a magic panacea” of costs.
Mr. Basista said there is uncertainty about the viability of whether the downtown
core can ever be separated. And Nancy Wheatley said that any plan has to address
that part of the system.
Dr. Clough asked Mr. Basista if there is enough cost data to analyze and Mr.
Basista said they are working on it and hope to have something in July.
The Panel then discussed which alternative plans they should hear. Joe Basista
suggested they hear from the citizen’s advisory committee. They primarily advocate
Panel members would also like someone from Minneapolis to talk about that city’s
experiences going to complete separation. Larry Roth said he would work on finding
someone from Minneapolis who could speak to the Panel at the next meeting. It
was also suggested that someone from Milwaukee come to speak about the tunnel
that was constructed there.
Dr. Clough said he would like to hear about most of the alternatives at the
next meeting so the Panel can move on so it’s final two meetings can be more
deliberative in nature.
Other possible groups or speakers to hear from include what Joe Basista refers
to as “the Justin Weideman plan.” The Panel may also want to hear from Dr. Brooks
about his plan. Cleanstreams, an environmental group, would also like to make
Nancy Wheatley agreed with letting the citizens advisory group make a presentation
but she cautioned that only groups with substantive proposals be invited to
present their ideas. The Panel can’t allow every group with a proposal in.
Dr. Lue-Hing said that he believes any group that has attended this first meeting
should be given the opportunity to talk.
Billy Turner suggested that a representative from the North Georgia Water District
be invited to speak about where they are going and how it interacts with Atlanta.
Andrew Harris of Georgia Tech’s President’s Office suggested inviting Harold
Reheis of the state EPD so the Panel can hear his perspective.
Greg Giornelli advised the Panel that the local chapter of the Urban Land Institute
(ULI) has volunteered to do an independent review of certain City of Atlanta
estimates of land costs to purchase the land needed to allow for handling storm
water under some citizen activist full separation alternatives that uses retention
ponds and streams.
To close the meeting, Dr. Clough said that the next meeting will be held on
Monday, July 15 at GCATT. An agenda will be compiled for the next meeting and
will be sent to everyone as soon as possible. With that he adjourned the meeting.