By John Schaffner
The Capital City Club, one of Atlanta’s oldest and most exclusive private clubs, got into environmental hot water last year because of pollution running into streams and lakes that feed Nancy Creek while the club rebuilt its Brookhaven golf course. The issue of fines and penalties still has not been resolved.
The club, at 53 W. Brookhaven Drive, faced fines and penalties from the city of Atlanta, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) totaling in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. An EPA document dated June 10, 2008, listed total compliance action cost from that agency alone at $313,000.
According to Bert Langley, a district manager with the EPD, negotiations related to the EPD, EPA and Atlanta fines and penalties are ongoing.
“It becomes very interesting” any time there are lawyers representing so many agencies involved with a case, Langley said. He added the case “could be resolved any day.”
Langley said he could not discuss the amount of the EPD fines being negotiated, but the total is based on a standard matrix system, which is the starting point for the talks.
The Capital City Club’s general manager and chief operating officer, Matt McKinney, confirmed that the negotiations are continuing. He said he could not discuss details of those negotiations. He also would not comment on whether the club would seek to have the contractor pay any fines or whether the club’s membership would be responsible for those payments.
Both Langley and McKinney said the club is completely back in compliance, and the site is in the condition it is supposed to be.
The issue arose in February 2008. Mud pouring into several streams — most unnamed — at the Capital City Club caught the attention of a city inspector on a routine review of the construction site. The EPD was called in for assistance.
That all led to an unusual convergence of the EPA and EPD, resulting in both pursuing penalties against the club for polluting the streams and a small lake on the golf course. By way of Nancy Creek, those waters eventually drain into the Chattahoochee River.
The city of Atlanta has fined the Capital City Club $3,000. According to Langley, the city has not quite closed its activity on the case. DeKalb County also got involved because the golf course straddles the line between Atlanta/Fulton County and DeKalb, but Langley said DeKalb was not involved as much as Atlanta and the EPD.
The club “worked aggressively” to bring the construction site into compliance in the spring of 2008, Langley said, once it was notified of the violations by the various regulators.
The EPD has said the club and its contractor relied on an inadequate erosion-control plan to handle the muddy runoff from the reconstruction of the 18-hole golf course. Contractors installed silt fences and dug basins to catch sediment, but those measures were not adequate to prevent the mud and silt from sliding into the waterways when it rained.
An EPA inspection report described the majority of the 115-acre construction site as “denuded,” with eroded stream banks and “sediment laden” waterways.
An EPA administrative order issued in early June said construction was taking place on several phases of the project simultaneously instead of one phase at a time, as called for in the plans.
The Capital City Club, founded in 1833, has a downtown Atlanta club at Peachtree and Harris streets built in 1911 and another golf course in Cherokee and Fulton counties that opened in 2002.
The golf course at the Country Club in Brookhaven is 96 years old. According to McKinney, work is completed, and the course will be ready for play by spring.
“We are just waiting for the grass to grow,” he said.