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Clean Water Atlanta (CWA) Overview

Clean Water Atlanta is the City’s comprehensive, long-term plan to ensure clean drinking water for Atlanta, and clean streams and clean wastewater flows for Atlanta and its downstream neighbors.

The objective of Clean Water Atlanta is to create the cleanest urban streams and rivers in the country within a decade.

Clean Water Atlanta recognizes that Atlanta’s economic growth, jobs, affordability and quality of life all depend on clean water.

Since the early 1980s, the City of Atlanta has faced challenges in complying with increasingly stringent federal Clean Water Act standards. Those challenges eventually led to the City entering into two Consent Decrees (CDs) to address operation of its wastewater facilities and combined and sanitary sewer overflows (CSOs and SSOs, respectively) within the city.

On October 16, 2002, Mayor Shirley Franklin announced the new Clean Water Atlanta initiative and unveiled a Five Point Plan for improving the city’s wastewater system.

The Five-Point Plan includes:

1. Professional Management of Consent Decree Program

The Department of Watershed Management was created in 2002 to oversee the City’s new comprehensive approach to solving water issues. The DWM includes the City’s two water-related bureaus –Wastewater Services and Drinking Water – along with Engineering Services and the proposed Stormwater Management Utility. This organizational structure allows DWM to plan, design, construct, operate and maintain the City’s entire system of water and wastewater treatment, pumping, collection and distribution, and proposed stormwater management facilities. Veteran EPA administrator Jack Ravan was named as commissioner of the new department. Several key positions have been created and filled to ensure that the department can fulfill the City's goal of operating as a "best-in-class" utility.

2. Strategy to Reduce Flooding and Pollution Caused by Stormwater

The City's goal is to implement a stormwater utility by the end of 2003. A stormwater utility will provide a steady and reliable source of revenue for reducing stormwater flooding and pollution and maximizing the use of natural pollution-reduction methods such as greenspace and ponds. A Stormwater Utility Master Plan is being developed that will outline the City's strategy for establishing the Stormwater Utility. The Master Plan will also include the City's strategy for involving the public in the implementation of the stormwater utility.

3. SSO Consent Decree Compliance

The First Amended Consent Decree (FACD) addresses improvements in the City's sanitary sewer system and requires the elimination of sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs). Under the FACD, the City is repairing, replacing or rehabilitating all 2,200 miles of sewer throughout the City and implementing long-term prevention and maintenance strategies under "Operation Clean Sewer." Operation Clean Sewer is an aggressive approach to inspecting, cleaning and relining the sewer system, and includes a full-scale grease management program that was launched in January 2003. Under Operation Clean Sewer, City staff will:

  • Clean 25% of the sewer system each year
  • Physically inspect 15% of the sewer system each year, and
  • Re-line 24 miles of sewer each year

Operation Clean Sewer will allow the City to achieve all FACD obligations by 2012 – 2 years ahead of CD schedule.

4. Water Quality Monitoring to Ensure Effectiveness of Clean Water Atlanta programs

The City has partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey and Southeast Waters to implement a comprehensive water quality monitoring plan. Forty stream sites will be monitored initially; twenty permanent sites will be monitored over the next decade. In addition, the Long Term Monitoring Program will help the City to track water quality improvements associated with Clean Water Atlanta. The Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper will provide oversight to the monitoring effort, working with a Technical Advisory Committee of local water quality, public health and environmental science experts.

5. CSO Consent Decree Compliance

The City has submitted and received regulatory authorization to implement the refined Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Remediation Plan. The CSO Plan, which must be completed by November 2007, will enable the City to achieve the highest water quality at the lowest cost within the shortest time frame. The City will achieve CD compliance using a combination of technologies:

  • Separation of two full basins (Greensferry and McDaniel) and one sub-basin (Stockade); also eliminates two CSO facilities
  • Tunnel storage and treatment system to capture and treat 99% of the sewage and 85% of stormwater from remaining combined area

The City's CSO Plan achieves 90% separation of the City's total sewer system and provides for the treatment of stormwater within the combined sewer area. More than two-thirds of water pollution is contributed by stormwater. CSOs will be reduced from 60+ per year at existing CSO facilities to an average of four per year at the four remaining CSO facilities (from more than 300 to an average of 16). These remaining overflows will be screened, disinfected and dechlorinated before discharge to a receiving stream.

Copyright 2003 City of Atlanta, Depart of Watershed Management. All rights reserved
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