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Eighty-five percent of Atlanta’s sewers are separate sanitary sewers. Beyond the 19-square-mile combined sewer area, in the separate sanitary sewer system, sewage flows in its own pipe to the City’s water reclamation centers (WRCs) for treatment, and stormwater flows in a separate pipe to a receiving stream. However, like many older cities, much of Atlanta’s sanitary sewer system is aged and in need of rehabilitation. Cracked and leaking pipes, built to handle sanitary sewage alone, admit groundwater and storm water as well, increasing the volume of flow in the pipes. In addition, as a result of Atlanta’s growth, the sewers are receiving sanitary sewage volumes greater than anticipated when they were originally constructed. Improper connections at residences and businesses also allow stormwater to enter the sanitary sewer system. Consequently, these sanitary sewer systems are strained beyond their capacity and experience sanitary sewer overflows – or SSOs.

During SSOs, a mixture of untreated sewage, groundwater and stormwater overflows from the pipes or from manholes connected to the pipes. Many sewer lines run alongside creeks and streams. When SSOs occur, the overflow goes directly into those creeks and streams, which may cross private property. Excess sanitary sewer flows also stress other pipes, pump stations and manhole covers, and wastewater treatment facilities.

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