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Monday, May 14, 2012 - 2:46am

Sewer Delays Drift Downstream

Some communities downstream of Atlanta are concerned about a recent decision to give the city 13 more years to finish court-ordered sewer upgrades.

Atlanta has spent $1.5 billion dollars since 1999 on projects to prevent sewage overflows into rivers and streams. Originally, the work had to be done in 2014.

“You can’t reverse decades of neglect overnight,” said Dusty Nix, editorial page editor of the Ledger-Enquirer newspaper in Columbus. “But 15 years isn’t overnight, and by the time this extension is over with, they will have had 28 years to fix this. That’s too much.”

Atlanta asked for the extension because of the cost burden on rate payers. But Dick Timmerberg, executive director of the West Point Lake Coalition in west Georgia, worries the delay will be a setback to the progress that’s been made. He praised former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin for tackling the issue.

“That’s had a very positive impact on our water quality. We don’t want to see that impact negated by Atlanta taking another 13 years to continue to improve their system,” Timmerberg said.

He said West Point Lake provides a $700 million boost to the LaGrange area’s economy.

The Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper has said Atlanta is making good progress on the upgrades and the delay seems reasonable since the work completed so far will have cut most spills into the river.