Chattahoochee Riverkeeper warns of ‘impending disaster’ downstream from Atlanta wastewater plant

ATLANTA — The Chattahoochee Riverkeeper is warning conditions in the river are approaching catastrophe due to “ongoing failures at Atlanta’s R.M. Clayton wastewater treatment plant.”

“We are now seeing clear warning signs of an impending ecological disaster on the Chattahoochee River downstream of the plant,” the organization said. “Nutrient pollution from the plant is contributing to very low oxygen levels in the river, which fish rely on to breathe.”

The warning of disaster follows news just over a week ago that the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper was threatening to sue the City of Atlanta due to what it said were violations of the Clean Water Act.

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As previously reported by Channel 2 Action News, the riverkeeper previously said the R.M. Clayton wastewater treatment plan was illegally discharging pollution into the Chattahoochee River.

In partnership with the Southern Environmental Law Center, they threatened to file a federal lawsuit against Atlanta to correct the violations, giving them 60 days to make changes or face them in court.


Both organizations said in their initial threat to sue that the R.M. Clayton facility is Atlanta’s largest water treatment plant and that it takes in millions of gallons of Atlanta wastewater every day.

While it’s only allowed to release 100 million gallons of treated wastewater into the river per day, the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper said they detected “dangerously elevated levels of E. coli bacteria” in the river and traced it to the plant back in March.

“Daily testing conducted by CRK at the outfall found E. coli levels were on average 340 times higher than the amount recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for safe water recreation,” they said in a previous statement.

CRK said they are still monitoring the water quality in the area, and that while they are seeing less frequent bacteria level spikes, they’re still urging caution for potential bacterial illnesses.

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