Residents and city officials examine a recently replaced sewer line during a tour of Atlanta Memorial Park.
Residents and city officials examine a recently replaced sewer line during a tour of Atlanta Memorial Park.

By Joe Earle

Atlanta city officials, Buckhead residents and reporters toured a portion of Atlanta Memorial Park on March 8 to examine areas plagued by flooding and sewage overflows.

Mayor Kasim Reed said he wanted to take part in the tour to see the problem first-hand after a meeting with residents a couple of weeks ago. He said city officials and engineers will meet with neighborhood residents within 10 days to start work on a plan to address the flooding issues.

Reed said that in response to residents’ complaints, the city will speed up its plans to spend $30 million to $35 million to repair a major sewer line that runs through in the park.

City officials also plan to raise by 2 to 3 feet a half-dozen manholes, including ones that leaked sewage during floods in December, Watershed Commissioner Jo Ann Macrina said. Macrina said the city planned “a very large project” that could take 18 months to complete once it gets underway.

“We’re going to take care of our neighborhoods wherever they are,” Reed said during a press conference at the start of the tour. “We will lay out a plan and will execute the plan.”

The city’s utilities committee planned to meet today, March 9, to discuss stormwater problems and potential solutions, city officials said.

Kirk Billings, president of the Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy, left, and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed field questions before touring Atlanta Memorial Park on March 8.

About 45 people took part in the hour-plus tour, which included stops to examine lines that residents said he spilled raw sewage during floods last December or in 2014. City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean, who represents the area, said the tour was a sign of progress. “There’s no replacement for seeing something with your own eyes…,” she said. “I’m feeling optimistic and I’m looking forward to the next meeting in 10 days.”

But some taking part in the tour felt the city’s plans didn’t go far enough.

Resident Craig Pendergrast described plans to raise a manhole as “a Band-Aid.” He said stormwater getting into the system upstream of the park created the sewage overflows in the park. “The answer long term is to control the stormwater,” he said.

And Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood has said she thinks a much larger project is needed to control stormwater throughout the area.

Still, she was pleased by the tour. “I’m delighted the mayor came this afternoon,” she said. “It’s good. It’s good we’re all trying to work together … There’s nothing that beats coming out and seeing it.”

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.