Sewer overflow tunnel a milestone for Atlanta

10 11 2008

Monday night, the city of Atlanta celebrates a victory over out-of-control sewage. After three years of digging and pouring concrete, construction crews have completed a deep sewer tunnel that can carry and store up to 177 million gallons of rain and sewage — enough to fill the Georgia Aquarium 21 times. The tunnel gives the city’s combined sewage overflow facilities time to fully treat the mixture of household waste and street wash before sending it back to the Chattahoochee River.

Before the West Area Combined Sewer Overflow Tunnel, the system was often overwhelmed when it rained. Storm water swelled the pipes, which already carried sewage, forcing shortcuts that sent undertreated sewage into the rivers and streams.

The $190 million tunnel has been the most controversial piece of the city’s $4 billion overhaul of its water and sewer system. Opponents wanted Atlanta to modernize its combined sewers by separating sewer pipes from storm drains, as most of the city’s pipes are. Only about 10 percent of Atlanta remains hooked to combined sewers, in the central city.

Officials opted for the tunnel because it could be done quicker and with less disruption. The city estimates the tunnel should reduce the number of spills from the combined system from about 300 a year down to 16, when it rains the most. The tunnel, in two sections, runs about 200 feet below the surface, from northwest Atlanta, through Georgia Tech, to southwest Atlanta. The other section runs under the Downtown Connector and over to Piedmont Park in Midtown.

Atlanta is working to update its sewer-only system by 2014.

Read on here.

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