Atlanta to spend billions
to upgrade sewer plants

Charles Seabrook - Staff
Friday, May 12, 2000

The Chattahoochee River has reached its capacity to assimilate greater volumes of waste water. That means metro Atlnata governments may have to spend $2 billion to $4 billion to upgrade sewage treatment plants to protect the river, a group of high-profile business and political leaders was told Thursday.

The upgrades, according to the report presented to the Clean Water Initiative Task Force, will not increase the capacity at the plants.

The report, based on a new study by the state Environmental Protection Division, was presented at the first meeting of the 36-member task force formed by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and the Regional Business Coalition to help find solutions to what members say is an "emerging water quality crisis."

"I think we've got the enthusiasm and the energy for this initiative, but this is not going to be an easy task," said Bill Dahlberg, co-chairman of the committee and CEO of Southern Company. He said that metro Atlanta's dirty water problems may outweigh its air pollution woes and other environmental problems.

"Never before has this region faced such a serious threat to our prosperity and quality of life," he said.

Dahlberg said that answers to waste water treatment capacity woes once could be found with the expansion or development of waste water treatment plants, but that is no longer an option because the Chattahoochee has reached its capacity to handle more wastes.

Similar problems exist in other metro rivers, he noted.

The task force will conduct six other meetings through September, and it plans to issue a list of recommendations in October to state and local governments and policy-makers for resolving the region's water problems.

The meetings are open to the public.