The city of Atlanta’s 2020 permit application for one of its sewer system facilities provides the location for its point-source discharge as Peachtree Creek, even though it is supposed to be the Chattahoochee River, as mandated by the state.
Also, an update document that supersedes the permit application lists Peachtree Creek as the point-source discharge.
Both documents (shown at left), obtained by the Neighbor but also available through a Georgia Open Records Act request, provide the latitude and longitude (33.826934, -84.454240) for the point-source discharge for receiving waters from the West Water Quality Control Facility, also known as the special combined sewer overflow facility on the R.M. Clayton property, as Peachtree Creek (see page 6). A simple Google map search will pinpoint the location.
Each municipality’s permit is required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program created by the federal Clean Water Act in 1972. The permits must be renewed every five years and require an approval process that includes a public comment period. The current permit, dating back to 2015, expires Aug. 31 and the 2020 one will take effect in September.
But Kevin Chambers, spokesman for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD), said the permit’s point-source discharge latitude and longitude were incorrectly entered on the application and update document. The correct ones (33.825292, -84.455983) show a discharge area in the Chattahoochee.
“The plant discharges to the Chattahoochee River and the emergency overflows discharge into Peachtree Creek when people and/or infrastructure are in danger,” Chambers said, referring to both erroneous documents. “EPD will ensure the application is updated to make this clear.”
The EPD also provided two updated maps of the site (shown at left) displaying the correct point-source discharge as well as the emergency discharge spot.
However, each map includes a disclaimer in the lower left-hand corner, under the heading “THIS MAP IS PROVIDED AS A PUBLIC SERVICE,” that states, “The City of Atlanta has made known that this data contains known errors and inconsistencies. The City of Atlanta in no way ensures, represents, or warrants the accuracy and/or reliability of the Data and/or map products being developed. The user of the Data and or map products assumes all risks and liabilities which may arise from the information produced by Maps or Data furnished to User by the City of Atlanta.”
Chambers said the mistakes mentioned on the maps will be corrected before the application is approved and the 2020 permit is issued. In response to follow-up questions about the application, he said all documents pertaining to the permit application would be fixed before the public comment period begins, but the period’s start date has not been set yet.
Form 2A does yet not include metals data collected from the point-source discharge of the Chattahoochee (Part D), which is required for the permit application to be approved. Also, both that document and the city’s 2016 sampling plans have not yet been signed and certified by a city leader such as the mayor or the Atlanta Department of Watershed Management’s commissioner, another prerequisite for passage.
When asked if the EPD is prepared to suspend the application process until that happens, Chambers said no.
Emails to the department, sent through the mayor’s office spokesman, seeking comment on the issue were not returned at the Neighbor’s deadline.
This is not the first problem to have occurred with the city’s documents related to government regulation of its sewer system. In March the Neighbor reported a key document needed for Atlanta to comply with one of two federal consent decrees monitoring its sewer system is missing, which could be considered a violation of that decree and lead to a fine or other punishment.
After the Neighbor received a tip that the city didn’t have any such signed certifications relating to the 2016 East/West combined sewer overflow sampling and monitoring plans, which are required as part of its compliance with the federal consent decree and its permits, the Neighbor filed its own open records request with the city.
In response, Nicolas Deville, the department of watershed management’s records manager, said in an email, “The (department) does not have any records responsive to your (open records) request.”
At the time Chambers said the state is aware the required signed certification document was missing.
“We will communicate with the city and going forward, documents submitted as required by permit and the consent decree will include any required certification,” he said. “Although the sampling and monitoring plan you inquired about was submitted without certification, all of the requirements of the plan are still enforceable as a permit requirement.”