Friday, July 12, 2013

Sewage spill contaminates northwest Atlanta creek

Posted By on Fri, Jul 12, 2013 at 12:44 PM

Sewage spill at Tanyard Creek caused a large fish kill
  • Mike Meyer/Chattahoochee Riverkeeper
  • Sewage spill at Tanyard Creek caused a large fish kill

A recent sewage spill at a northwest Atlanta residential complex has polluted Tanyard Creek, a tributary of the Chattahoochee River that runs near a segment of the Atlanta Beltline.

Raw sewage filtered into Tanyard Creek last week after a lift station at the adjacent residential complex shut down. Chattahoochee Riverkeeper executive director Sally Bethea tells CL that Georgia Power shut off the facility's electricity due to unpaid bills. That decision unintentionally caused the development's waste to flow into the creek instead of the city's sewers.

Riverkeeper Watershed Protection Specialist Mike Meyer says that nearly 10,000 gallons of sewage polluted the Collier Hills waterway. He discovered the spill after being contacted by a Neighborhood Water Watch Program volunteer who collected an irregular test sample that showed extremely high e. coli levels.

Once Meyer tracked down the sewage source up the creek channel, he encountered a "putrid" smell, "gray and nasty" waters, and "groups of 30 to 40" dead fish along the waterway's banks.

"There were no live fish," he says. "It'll take a while for the ecosystem to rebound ... the smell is still there and it will take a while before it can be habituated again."

DWM spokeswoman Cameo Garrett confirmed the spill's location, but says the department played a minimal role because the incident took place on private property. "The Department of Watershed Management located the spill source and contacted Georgia Power to have the electricity restored," she tells CL in an email. "In the interest of public health, we posted spill signs near the creek.

According to a Riverkeeper statement, recent bacteria levels were nearly three times higher than normal, but they have substantially dropped since the spill first occurred. Nevertheless, the environmental organization plans to keep close watch over Tanyard Creek in the coming weeks.

We've sent a line to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, the agency which DWM says is ultimately responsible for enforcement against the complex. If we hear back, we'll post an update.

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