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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) announced that the City of Atlanta has been assessed stipulated penalties for non-compliance with the terms of a Federal Consent Decree. The Consent Decree was entered into by EPA, EPD and the City in 1999 to bring the City's sanitary sewer system that is separated from stormwater into compliance with the Clean Water Act and the Georgia Water Quality Control Act.
The City notified EPA and EPD in February 2003 that the Indian Creek Sewer Relief Project would not be completed on schedule (February 28, 2003). Substantial completion was not accomplished until July 18, 2003. Subsequently, EPA and EPD began an investigation into the City's failure to meet this major construction deadline. Completion of the project was necessary to eliminate the historical overflows of raw sewage into neighborhood streams.
The Consent Decree provides for options to penalize the City for this violation and to deter future violations that include stipulated penalties up to $8,500 per day. Based on the 140-day completion delay, the total could have resulted in a total penalty of up to $890,000; a moratorium against any new sewer connection in the affected area; a flat monetary penalty of $1,000,000; or a combination of a connection moratorium and the monetary penalty.
During a review of the Project delay, it was noted that the City took a comprehensive look at the factors leading to the failure to meet the Project deadline and had made significant effort to minimize the delay and to mitigate its effect. Therefore, EPA and EPD elected to assess, at this time, $100,000 in stipulated penalties. However, both agencies reserve the right to assess the remaining $790,000 in penalties contingent upon the City's future compliance with the Decree.
Specifically, if the City completes the Nancy Creek Tunnel and Pump Station, a project similar to the Indian Creek Project, by its December 31, 2005 deadline, the remaining $790,000 penalty will not be assessed against the City. However, failure to meet the deadline may result in the assessment of the penalty as well as any penalties which may be assessed for failure to meet the Nancy Creek Project deadline.
EPA and EPD will continue to monitor the progress of these critical sewer projects to ensure that the City complies with the Consent Decree so that the health of the residents and environment are protected.