Busted pipe sends sewage into the Chattahoochee River

By: Brian Monahan

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COBB COUNTY, Ga. - Rottenwood Creek flows under Windy Hill Road about a mile from the Chattahoochee River. It was two weeks ago that route water sampling raised a huge red flag about the health of the creek. Dangerously high bacteria levels were found.

High levels of bacteria, usually E. coli, are common in metro Atlanta’s rivers, creeks and streams after heavy rain; water runs off paved surfaces into the waterways, carrying with it pollution and debris. The high levels of E. coli found in the creek this time, though, have nothing to do with rain.

“The E. coli right now in this water is through the roof,” said Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Jason Ulseth.

It took more than a week to find the source of the contamination.

“When we find problems, we have trained pollution trackers that actually jump into these streams,” Ulseth said.

More than a week ago, the Riverkeeper found a broken pipe spilling sewage from the Arlington Park at Wildwood apartment complex into the creek. Eight days later, Ulseth is frustrated the spill continues, dirtying the water of the creek and threatening the Chattahoochee River downstream.

“We’re not seeing any evidence of any work that’s being done here yet. We’ve notified the county, we’ve notified the state, and we’ve notified emergency-response officials,” Ulseth said.

The Cobb County Water Department told us that since the broken pipe is on private property, it’s the responsibility of the apartment complex to fix the pipe and stop the flow of sewage.


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Management at Arlington Park declined an on-camera interview, but told us in a statement that the pipe was bent and broken when a tree fell on it and they plan to have repairs complete by the end of Thursday.

While we saw some trash in the creek and even some toilet paper floating downstream Wednesday, Ulseth worries that you really can’t see the danger in the water.

“You don’t look at it and say, ‘Holy cow, this is a dangerous and polluted creek.’ But when we test it, when we run it, this creek has E. coli levels that are through the roof,” Ulseth said.

Channel 2 Action News will follow up Thursday to see if the repairs have been completed.

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