Atlanta’s sewer system dates back to the 19th Century, and incorporates
both combined and separated sanitary sewer systems. Much of the original infrastructure
In the City’s center, in an area roughly 19 square miles, a combined sewer
system conveys sewage and stormwater flows in a single pipe. The boundaries
of the combined sewer area were the city limits around 1910. The combined system
represents about 15% of the total wastewater system area. Beyond the 19-square-mile
combined sewer area, Atlanta’s sewers are separated. Sanitary wastewater
flows in its own pipe to the treatment facility, and stormwater flows in a separate
pipe to a receiving stream.
Atlanta’s sewer systems are aged and in disrepair. Excessive overflows
from the combined sewer system, coupled with sanitary sewer overflows and leaks
in the separated area, have negatively impacted area water quality and resulted
in a lawsuit against the City. The lawsuit resulted in two federal Consent Decrees
that direct the City to make all improvements to its wastewater system necessary
to comply with state and federal water quality requirements. To meet the requirements,
the City must reduce combined sewer overflows to permitted levels and eliminate
sanitary sewer overflows. Also included in the Consent Decrees was a mandate
to provide improved wastewater conveyance and treatment at Atlanta’s water
reclamation centers (WRCs).
The $3 billion wastewater component of Clean Water Atlanta builds upon the
1993 CIP and was developed in response to the two Consent Decrees.