More than 100,000 gallons of sewage spilled into DeKalb County creeks Wednesday after a couple inches of rain.
The sewage came from four major sewer spills, but the county has had problems for years.
Since 2011, DeKalb has been under a federal consent decree, a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Georgia Environmental Protection Division. It ends in mid-2020.
“We’ve been working really hard to identify the problems,” said Darren Eastall, program administrator for the consent decree for DeKalb County Department of Watershed Management. “Now we’ve got to get the shovels in the ground to get out there and fix the problems.”
Eastall said the county has a list of projects to focus on. Some it’s already begun working on, and more will begin this year.
This pace has been too slow for Jackie Echols, president of the South River Watershed Alliance.
“You have sewer spills every time it rains. You have them even when it doesn’t rain,” she said. “I get mad. I got way past the resigned phase of it.”
The number of spills that DeKalb reports has ticked up since the consent decree began, but that’s because the county is out there looking for them, said Eastall, not because there actually have been more.
This is just one issue DeKalb County’s dealt with in recent years. It has an ongoing problem with issuing correct and timely water bills to customers. Former county CEO Burrell Ellis went to prison for corruption, and a county commissioner served federal time for taking more than $100,000 in taxpayer money.
“The county management and administration throughout the consent decree process has been a little rocky,” said Juliet Cohen, executive director of Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, and a member of DeKalb’s Watershed Capital Improvements Program Advisory Group.
As far as Wednesday’s spills, Eastall said clean-up efforts are underway, as are repairs. The county says two of those sites have had problems before, because of aging infrastructure.