DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — DeKalb County Watershed Management crews are cleaning and repairing 53 miles of main sewer lines, marking the first time the maintenance work has been undertaken in a half-century.
The driving motivation for the cleanup is a 2020 deadline,set under a 2011 Environmental Protection Agency consent decree, after numerous sewage spills.
Local business leaders say cleared sewer lines will not only help the environment, but also the economy.
“When your sewer lines are clogged, when you have insufficient capacity, developers go elsewhere,” said Michael Paris, with the Council for Quality Growth. "The competition is heavy across the region. And cities and counties that can provide the infrastructure that works, get the jobs, get the housing, get the development."
To clear the pipes, harnessed crews must sometimes be lowered into the sewer line.
Channel 2’s Sophia Choi took a safety lesson with crews before going down herself.
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“It’s super tight down there and it doesn’t smell good either,” Choi said as she went through the sewer tunnels.
In other instances, crews use a remote-controlled camera to assess the pipe, then a power washer-like machine to clean the gunk.
“We’re finding grit, roots, dirt, lots of grease” said Darren Eastall, who’s the consent decree administrator for DeKalb County.
Crews have hauled off 80 tons of debris
, so far this year. Assessments show about half the pipes need cleaning.
County leaders say 38 percent of the large pipes are done, at a cost so far of $16.6 million.