DeKalb CEO says sewage spills are problem, could take longer to fix

DeKalb CEO says sewage spills are problem, could take longer to fix

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Nearly every time it rains, sewage spills into DeKalb County creeks.

Now we've learned it could take years longer to fix the system that causes so much frustration for neighbors and county CEO Michael Thurmond agrees it's a problem.

In the past week alone, DeKalb has had more than two dozen sewer spills. Many of them were major, meaning over 10,000 gallons of sewage got into a creek or river.

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The county is years into an agreement with the federal government to fix the system or face major fines but progress has been far too slow.

Thurmond mentioned DeKalb's agreement with state and federal regulators, the consent decree\ that mandates what DeKalb has to do and sets deadlines but he didn't mention a late December letter obtained by Channel 2 Action News.


In it the federal environmental protection agency expressed “concerns regarding DeKalb County’s compliance with the consent decree.”

The Environmental Protection Agency reminds DeKalb of the possibility of “significant penalties" if the county fails to timely complete all of the work.

When Belcher asked if this meant a three- to five-year delay in meeting the deadline for the next year, Thurmond said, "Well, no I can't speak to that. That's a projection.," he said. "What I am in a position to say is there is no doubt we have gotten the consent decree back on track."

As for the threat of fines, Thurmond said, "Well, that's beyond my control in terms of whether or not fines are levied, but let me tell you what I am focused on. I'm focused on doing the right thing for the citizens of DeKalb County."

Thurmond said the county has not formally requested more time to complete the required work.

Belcher said, "The December letter suggests they are not inclined to give you more time."
Thurmond said, "Well, that's OK. I'm focused. I'm focused on getting the job done. The deadline is the deadline. Whether we meet it or not, we still have to get the work done."

Thurmond said the county has $105 million worth of work underway, and he vows that when he leaves office DeKalb will be closer to compliance than when he came in two years ago.

Whether that will be enough to satisfy the EPA. isn't clear.