Atlanta Department of Watershed Management | WABE 90.1 FM

Atlanta Department of Watershed Management

Alison Guillory / WABE

Atlanta's sewer system has been under federal oversight for nearly 20 years. Now, an independent office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is looking at how well Atlanta has complied with its agreements to clean up water pollution and how well the EPA has overseen it.

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U.S. Congressman John Lewis wrote to the EPA Office of Inspector General asking for a review earlier this year.

Karolina Grabowska / Pixabay

There’s snow in the forecast, but most of Georgia is still in a drought. Thanks to the rain over the past few weeks, there are now no Georgia counties experiencing exceptional drought conditions, which are the worst category in the U.S. Drought Monitor’s scale.

Still, there are actually water use restrictions in place for all of metro Atlanta. But those rules are being followed unevenly.

David Goldman / associated press file

It's December and temperatures are dropping, but state and local officials say they are ready for whatever Mother Nature and Jack Frost have in store this winter.

No snow is expected in north Georgia this weekend, but the Georgia Department of Transportation is fully stocked in case some of the white stuff – or even worse, ice – appears sometime over the next few months.

“[We have] just over 50,000 tons of salt, just over 65,000 tons of gravel, 385 snow removal equipment units, throughout the state and we are at capacity on brine,” said GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale.

Frigid Weather To Descend Upon Georgia This Week

Dec 8, 2016
MariaGodFrida, via Pixabay

Georgians may want to make sure they've got warm jackets and blankets within reach.

Frigid weather is coming to Georgia this week thanks to an Arctic-type air mass flying south from Canada.

“The next couple of days we’re looking at mid-20’s approximately for lows roughly and then the lower 40’s for highs," said Brian Lynn, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City.

According to the NWS, those temps are 10 to 15 degrees below what is normal in Georgia for this time of year.

A sunken boat is exposed by receding water levels on Lake Lanier. Rainfall is expected Monday night, but water restrictions are expected to stay in place through the winter months.
David Goldman / Associated Press

After more than 42 days of no rain in metro Atlanta, scattered showers are expected Monday evening, with steadier rain overnight.

In Cobb County, the rain will be “the first rain in Cobb in 67 days, a record since record keeping began in the 1880s,” according to Kathy Nguyen, the county’s water department’s senior project manager.  

Peoplestown resident Bertha Darden leads a protest against the city's plans to turn her block into a rainwater retention pond.
Lisa Hagen

 

 

The city of Atlanta has taken over five properties in Peoplestown through eminent domain for a flood control project. At least two of those homeowners are still fighting to stay.

"Tell eminent domain! Tell it! Put up your dukes! Put up your dukes!” shouted Bertha Darden. Even standing among protesters gathered in her neighbor’s yard on Nov. 18, the 30-year Peoplestown resident was like a one-woman pep rally. Needless to say, Darden doesn't want to move.

Mayor Kasim Reed has given United Consulting until this upcoming Monday evening to make a decision.
Andrew Harnik / AP Photo

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said Monday his decision to oust the general manager at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and the commissioner of the city watershed department was about “moving forward,” though he was quiet on the specifics that lead him to take those actions.

Late Friday, Reed dismissed Airport General Manager Miguel Southwell and Department of Watershed Commissioner Jo Ann Macrina.

Jim Burress / WABE

Monday on "Closer Look with Rose Scott and Jim Burress":

Alison Guillory / WABE

Jo Ann Macrina is no longer the commissioner of Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management, according to a news statement released Saturday afternoon from the city of Atlanta.

She had been the commissioner since 2011.

Courtesy of Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy

People who live near a Buckhead park that tends to flood with sewage are asking for solutions. The mayor toured the park earlier this week, but a real fix could still be a long way off.

Neighbors of Atlanta Memorial Park describe water shooting out of manhole covers during a winter flood, and say the stream bank is heavily eroded.

The Department of Watershed Management says it has plans that would partially address the issues, but a real solution will be expensive, and possibly years away.

GSU Law Professor, Tanya Washington, center, speaks against the installation of a retention pond in the Peoplestown community at a protest on the steps of City Hall in Atlanta, Ga., on Sept., 21, 2015. Washington lives in one of the affected homes.
Tasnim Shamma / WABE

An Atlanta City councilman wants to put on hold plans to build a stormwater retention pond and park in the Peoplestown neighborhood.

The Department of Watershed Management has been looking to demolish about 30 homes to build the stormwater retention pond to alleviate flooding in the area.  

Councilman Michael Julian Bond said he didn’t want to be morbid, but one option was to put the project on hold.

Watershed vending machine
Tasnim Shamma / WABE

  

New vending machines in the city of Atlanta's Department of Watershed Management facilities won't just pop out Gatorade. They will stock safety equipment like goggles and gloves.

Part of the goal is to keep track of inventory.

Last summer, 14 department employees were fired. An investigation found corruption and theft and included 10,000 missing water meters.

watershed construction
Atlanta Department of Watershed Management

Two former employees are suing the city of Atlanta because they say they were silenced and fired after they reported safety violations.

Gwendolyn Winston and Loren Yarbrough say they were wrongfully fired because they were the ones who reported on internal corruption.

Debris almost fills the openings of this rainwater drain on Greenbriar Parkway SW in SW Atlanta.
Charles W. Jones / WABE

When heavy rains swept through Atlanta recently, parts of the city flooded including the Downtown Connector and an apartment building in Midtown.

Atlanta Department of Watershed Management Commissioner Jo Ann Macrina confirmed during an interview on “A Closer Look” intense rains and clogged storm drains are mostly to blame.

But Macrina said there were other reasons for the flooding, as well.

“This issue is actually a lot more complicated than what meets the eye.”

The Atlanta Police Department has arrested two men with the city's Department of Watershed Management for allegedly stealing tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment to sell for profit.

The Watershed Department says since 2008, William Spaulding and Charles Edwards made more than $60,000 off of the stolen brass, copper and water meters.

The arrests come after the launch of three separate investigations into mismanagement and theft within the department last year.

Heavy rain can make Atlanta’s sewers overflow. The city overhauled the system in an effort to make it happen less often.
Ric Feld / Associated Press

The Atlanta sewer system’s permits to release wastewater into local rivers are up for renewal. The permits dictate how much pollution is allowed to flow into the Chattahoochee and South Rivers. (The discharge into the South River is via Intrenchment Creek in Southeast Atlanta.)

The permits come up for renewal every five years. What’s different this time is that Atlanta has overhauled its sewer system, and built tunnels that can hold extra storm water, to keep it from overflowing into the river untreated.  

Bellwood Quarry is used for film and TV shoots, including ''The Hunger Games''; which had a scene at this spot, and ''The Walking Dead.''
Brenna Beech / WABE

About a mile from Midtown, there’s a 400 foot hole in the ground. Bellwood Quarry was mined for a century. Now the city’s transforming it into a reservoir, and the hundreds of acres around it will eventually be Atlanta’s biggest park.

It looks like some place in the Rocky Mountains. Bellwood Quarry has steep granite walls and crystal clear water. A road snakes down the side to the bottom.  

Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond says he grew up near here. He remembers as a kid, the community was not happy with the quarry.

Auditor: Atlanta Watershed Security "Weak Or Nonexistant"

Sep 9, 2014

Atlanta’s Watershed department remains vulnerable to rampant theft, according to a city audit released Tuesday.

The audit, which can be found here, was conducted this summer and showed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of missing or stolen equipment, including at least 10,000 water meters. 

City Auditor Leslie Ward said the scope of the problem surprised her.

City of Atlanta

Atlanta’s head of public works expressed concern Thursday over a recent report showing millions of dollars worth of supplies and materials within his department unaccounted for.

It comes in wake of widespread allegations of theft and mismanagement in another city department - Watershed Management.

Atlanta Releases Names of Fired Watershed Employees

Aug 20, 2014
Atlanta Department of Watershed Management

The city of Atlanta Tuesday released the names of the 13 Watershed employees who were fired last week. Three separate city agencies are investigating wide-scale mismanagement and theft within the department.

The employees are as follows:

Atlanta Watershed Yet to Release Names of Those Fired

Aug 18, 2014
watershed construction
Atlanta Department of Watershed Management

The city of Atlanta has yet to release the names of the 13 Watershed department employees who were fired Friday. The firings come amid three separate investigations into mismanagement and rampant theft within the department.

The city’s law and police departments, as well as the city auditor, are conducting their own investigations.

City spokeswoman Anne Torres acknowledged those were still ongoing, but said the timing of the firings was “necessary and appropriate.” 

The Atlanta City Council Monday reprimanded the city’s embattled Watershed chief and members of Mayor Kasim Reed’s team over hefty raises awarded to five Watershed managers.

Watershed Commissioner Jo Ann Macrina said legislation approved in 2012 gave her broad authority to adjust salaries to help attract and retain workers.

“Part of the reason we are losing good people is we can’t pay them the salaries they are getting elsewhere,” said Macrina.

Channel 26

Questions persist over how the city’s Watershed commissioner was able to dish out hefty pay raises to her leadership team without City Council approval. It comes as the department is being investigated for mismanagement and widespread cases of lost and stolen equipment.

Earlier this year, Watershed chief Jo Ann Macrina awarded pay raises to five members of her leadership team, ranging from $15,000 to $25,000. The raises were backdated to June so retroactive pay was included.