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Protect the Chattahoochee River from pollution

The Chattahoochee River needs your help. Please tell Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division to hold polluters accountable and to protect the river from sewage pollution. 

Last summer, Fulton County’s Big Creek wastewater treatment plant dramatically malfunctioned. For almost three weeks during prime recreation season, approximately 13 million gallons per day of partially treated sewage and dangerously high E. coli bacteria were released into the river and the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA).   

CRK’s routine water quality monitoring detected high levels of bacteria in the river, and we tracked the source to the Big Creek wastewater treatment plant’s discharge pipe in the Chattahoochee River. We notified Fulton County and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) about the problem, after which they confirmed that the treatment plant was not operating properly. To protect public health, the National Park Service took the unprecedented step to shut down 15 miles of the river in the CRNRA for almost three weeks in July. 

In response to the plant’s malfunction, Georgia EPD has issued a draft Environmental Enforcement Order (EPD-WP-9485). CRK believes the Enforcement Order is inadequate because it does not include any requirement for monitoring downstream of the plant to protect public health from another plant failure in the future. 

In addition, the draft Environmental Enforcement Order has a paltry fine of $113,600 for 25 violations related to the plant failure and 53 other sewer spills in Fulton County with no connection to the plant’s failure.

CRK believes this fine is inadequate based on harm to the river ecosystem and public health. Another recent plant malfunction in metro Atlanta in less than a year suggests the repeat of an old pattern that municipalities may rather pay these minimal fines than abide by the Clean Water Act and protect our water. 

Chattahoochee Riverkeeper is asking EPD for an enforcement order that includes a larger penalty to deter Fulton County from ignoring plant malfunctions like the one that occurred in July 2023 that put human health and the health of the river at risk. We also would like Fulton County to support long-term downstream bacteria monitoring efforts like the Alerta Bacteria program that helped alert CRK and the public to the issue. 

Please Take Action: Use the template below to send a message telling EPD to hold polluters accountable and that the Chattahoochee River needs protection from poorly treated sewage. EPD is accepting comments on the Enforcement Order until April 10, 2024. Comments may be sent to [email protected].


Subject line: Comment on Enforcement Order EPD-WP-9485 

Dear Ms. Lips, 

The Chattahoochee River is very important to me and my community. 

I think the Fulton County draft consent order (EPD-WP-9485) inadequately addresses the threat that last summer’s Big Creek wastewater treatment plant failure had on public health. The current minimal fine encourages wastewater treatment plants to keep polluting, rather than commit to plant improvements that would protect our communities now and in the future. 

Please hold Fulton County and all other local jurisdictions responsible in the future by fully enforcing the Clean Water Act and state clean water requirements. 

Sincerely, 

[Your Name]

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