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South River alliance allowed to intervene

6/11/11 - Cross Roads News

The South River Watershed Alliance has been accepted as the sole intervener in the consent decree between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and DeKalb County.

DeKalb signed the consent decree with the EPA and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Environmental Protection Division on Dec. 13 that mandates $700 million of repairs to the county’s sewer system to reduce spills and overflows. It also is required to pay a civil penalty of $453,000 and $600,000 to clean up segments of the South River, South Fork Peachtree Creek, and Snapfinger Creek.

The improvements, fines and penalty were levied for fouling the state’s waters in violation of the Federal Clean Water Act and the Georgia Water Quality Control Act.

DeKalb operates more than 2,600 miles of sewer pipes, and more than 50 percent of them are 25 to 50 years old. In 2006, it reported 256 sanitary spills.

On May 11, after reviewing written arguments from the EPA, the EPD and DeKalb County, the federal judge presiding over the consent decree issued an order granting South River Watershed Alliance’s request to intervene.

The federal and state agencies did not object to the group’s intervention request, but DeKalb County did.

With the court’s approval, the alliance will be part of the implementation as well as the ongoing judicial supervision of the consent decree. The group said it is entitled to intervene as a matter of right under the U.S. Clean Water Act. It was assisted in its efforts by GreenLaw public interest attorneys.

Jackie Echols, the alliance’s president, said the group has decided not to object to the entrance of the consent decree at this time.

As a full legal party, the alliance will have a seat at the table, access to documentation, and a legal voice in matters relating to the consent decree. The alliance was among six community groups urging a stronger consent decree and seeking greater accountability and transparency as the county spends more than $1.3 billion to overhaul its water and sewer systems.

Water rates for residents will increase by 11 percent annually between 2012 and 2014.

The South River Watershed Alliance’s mission is to protect and restore the South River.