Citizens to Hold DeKalb County Accountable After Years of Dumping

South River Watershed Alliance to Join Lawsuit against County

April 7, 2011 – Today, the South River Watershed Alliance (Alliance), represented by public interest attorneys from GreenLaw, took steps to ensure that the DeKalb residents harmed by years of illegal sewer overflows from DeKalb County will have a seat at the table as regulators finalize a deal with the County on how to fix the ailing sewer system. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) have filed a proposed Consent Decree in federal court which outlines a plan to clean up the DeKalb County sewer system. The proposed Decree is the result of the County’s long-term failure to prevent unpermitted discharges of untreated sewage into Snapfinger Creek, South River and many other water bodies in the County.

On December 13, 2010, EPA, EPD and DeKalb County reached an agreement for completion of major improvements to its sewer systems in the form of the Consent Decree. This Consent Decree must be approved by the federal judge assigned to the case in order to take effect.

GreenLaw’s attorneys have already found flaws in the approach advocated by public officials. In addition, the Alliance wants greater accountability and transparency in the process as the County spends $1.4 billion in increased water and sewer rates over the next five years.

Joining the federal and state government’s enforcement at this stage will give the South River Watershed Alliance, which is dedicated to protecting and restoring the water quality of the South River watershed, full access as a party in the legal process for approval of the Consent Decree.

Speaking on behalf of GreenLaw’s Metro Atlanta Environmental Justice Program, attorney David Deganian said “Sewage spills have a direct impact on the quality of life of people in DeKalb County. We are joining this process to ensure that they are represented adequately and that the current pattern of spills ends as quickly as possible.”

“This intervention will give citizens a seat at the table” says long time public involvement advocate and incoming Alliance president Jackie Echols. “DeKalb citizens deserve a formal, ongoing, and meaningful say in how the Consent Decree is implemented and $1.4 billion of their money is spent. The only way this will happen is that they are officially included in the decision making process. The involvement of citizens will bring a certain transparency to the process that would not ordinarily be there.”

"Federal law requires that DeKalb County protect its citizens, not expose them to unhealthy pollution," said Justine Thompson, Executive Director of GreenLaw. "We are going to Court because we want to make sure that citizens of DeKalb County don't have to worry about raw sewage in their backyards."
A copy of the complaint filed in federal court may be found on GreenLaw’s website:  Click Here.


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CONTACTS:
Jackie Echols, South River Watershed Alliance - 404.285.3756
David Deganian, GreenLaw - 770.880.5752
GreenLaw Office - 404.659.3122