Brookhaven, GA, December 5, 2016 – Commentary, by Chad Boles – Between Friday evening and Saturday morning, the most recent in a string of sewer spills occurred in the watershed encompassing Fernwood Park, Brookhaven Fields, Drew Valley and the future Peachtree Creek Greenway. Just three weeks ago in Chamblee, 47,000 gallons of sewer flowed into the Peachtree Creek.
Sewage overflows into Nancy Creek around the Ashford Dunwoody Corridor are well documented. All residents of North DeKalb are getting a whiff. DeKalb County continues to under report sewer spills as reported by Mark Niesse and Arielle Kass of the AJC.
DeKalb County has been under a consent decree from the EPA since 2010. A consent decree is a signed agreement between the EPA and DeKalb County outlining the steps to restore our wastewater collection system to compliance. It states all of DeKalb County’s sewer pipes and manholes are more than 50 years old. The pipes underneath our streets are crumbling like dry clay on your wet driveway.
The consent decree requires DeKalb County to not only pay annual fines, but also to report sewer spills to the EPA within 24 hours followed by written documentation within five days. It requires DeKalb County produce a mapping system of the entire system which still does not exist, or is not available to our local city’s Public Works Departments. The consent decree was put in place to force DeKalb County to end a long history of building backups, groundwater infiltration and stream collection of Escherichia Coli. Over $1.35B dollars was budgeted and special sewer taxes were levied to repair the failing system.
Sewer volume modeling was put in place years ago as required by the consent decree. It determines how much additional flow new real estate development will put into the system. This summer DeKalb County Water and Sewer Department signed a letter stating at least five proposed developments in our area would overburden existing sewer capacity. Yet, the morning before the October MARTA TOD Planning Commission meeting, DeKalb County reversed their opinion. The position reversal is an effort to approve new development unencumbered by the duty to its citizens.
Since the reversal local government officials from upstream cities have lauded the County’s reversal in a nod towards new development. Those developments neither met the pre-existing requirements, nor will they generate any new tax revenue because of the massive tax abatements given. Of the nearly $1B in tax abatements given by Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Chamblee, nearly $150M would have gone to the DeKalb County Water and Sewer Department. But rest assured, the financial black hole of DeKalb County Water and Sewer will still get their “tap” fees.
Build a new sewer piping system now before any future real estate development rezoning is approved. Protect our streams and rivers from the ongoing sewer spills in Brookhaven. Refocus our efforts on the business of governing. Drop time-wasting efforts that do nothing to strengthen the foundations of our city. Demand DeKalb County build a new sewer pipeline from the MARTA parking lot to the Peachtree Creek Greenway. It should be constructed without ANY additional expense to the City of Brookhaven, budget busting bonds or more special taxes we have already paid.
I am asking each of you to contact your County Commissioner, mayor and city representative. Now is the time for our city leadership to focus on the main priority of our City’s Charters and Code of Ordinances: protecting the public welfare. Continuing to ignore the problem renders them complicit in DeKalb County’s gross negligence. The same gross negligence undermining the incredible real estate potential that exists in North DeKalb. This letter serves as my request.