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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

City forced to take a dump into Chattahoochee

Yes, the Chattahoochee will appear a little extra brown in the near future, as city officials have been given no choice but to dump dookie and minimally treated wastewater into the river.

Atlanta Department of Watershed Management Commissioner Rob Hunter this morning told reporters that serious flooding has shut down the city's R.M. Clayton wastewater treatment plant in Northwest Atlanta and forced the department to dump raw sewage into the river.

The plant, which Hunter said is the largest in the Southeast, has sustained damages in the "tens of millions of dollars." On an average day, it can treat 180 million gallons of poop-tinged liquid. As the AJC notes, it's part of the city's controversial combined sewage overflow project.

"It's not imperiling or causing a problem for any drinking water supplies, but people need to minimize contact with the Chattahoochee River and all flood waters," Hunter said. The city has already lined up contractors to make repairs and made first steps to qualify for federal assistance. But until the R.M. Clayton plant is back up and running, more sewage will be discharged into the river.

Sally Bethea of the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper says the sewage discharge's long-term impact on the waterway depends on when watershed officials fix R.M. Clayton — and how long the flooding continues.

"The river is highly polluted right now," Bethea said. "Not just from the city's sewage plant, but from other sources: sewer lines, pollutants and trash. The question is, how long is the plant and other plants going to be incapacitated? Is this days, or weeks or more?

She continues: "In terms of the long-term threat to the river, if the flooding dissipates within a few weeks, we'll probably see the bacteria levels coming back to normal within a few days. But what else has been washed into the river?... I've never seen so much trash headed into the river."

Bethea said that the organization's longtime boat captain Harlan Trammell has volunteered his vessel and expertise to help watershed officials assess the damage and navigate the plant.

So avoid canoeing in the Krog Street tunnel. Tell your kids to stop splashing in flood waters. As Mayor Shirley Franklin said this morning, this isn't a snowstorm. That water is filthy. And now we know for a fact that it's swimming with shit.

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