Bacteria Water

Chattahoochee Riverkeeper to sue City of Atlanta over Clean Water Act violations

Chattahoochee Riverkeeper to sue City of Atlanta over Clean Water Act violations

Published at 8:00am on Friday, July 5, 2020

ATLANTA- Chattahoochee riverkeeper, represented in Atlanta by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), informed the Atlanta Department of Watershed Management it had 60 days to stop dumping illegal levels of pollutants from the R.M. Clayton Water Reclamation Center discharged into the Chattahoochee river or the groups would file a federal lawsuit for violations of the Clean Water Act.

Clean Water Act requires a 60-day Notice of Intent To Sue. The groups will file a federal suit if the city fails to correct violations within 60 days.

The R.M. The Clayton facility is Atlanta’s largest wastewater treatment system. The plant treats up to 100,000,000 gallons per day of treated wastewater.

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Chattahoochee Riverkeeper detected dangerously high levels of E. coli in the Chattahoochee River on March 20, 2024. The source was identified as the R.M. The outfall of the Clayton plant into the river. Daily tests conducted by CRK found E. coli concentrations were on average 340-times higher than those recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ensure safe water recreation.

CRK informed the City of Atlanta, Georgia Environmental Protection Division, and other agencies that the plant discharged large amounts of E.coli and other pollutants in the river. This was a threat to public health, wildlife and the river ecosystem.

The City of Atlanta, upon hearing of the unsafe conditions in the river at first, attributed both the failure of the plant and the multiple discharges of illegal substances into the facility to heavy rains. Georgia EPD’s inspection revealed the facility was in disrepair with numerous safety hazards and problems at every stage of wastewater treatment.

CRK pressed city leaders from March to June to fix operational problems and speed up repairs at the plant. Monitoring by CRK of the plant’s effluent has shown that E. coli levels have spiked sporadicy as recently as 6 June. E. coli exposure can lead to serious illness in children, elderly people, and immunocompromised individuals.

Jason Ulseth is CRK Riverkeeper’s Executive Director. “We are concerned about the high levels organic material and nutrients that enter the river through the discharge of the plant, which violates the permit.” Ammonia, phosphorus and other contaminants contribute to the low oxygen levels of the river, which is detrimental to aquatic life.

Ulseth says that the city’s corrective action plan will not be sufficient to ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act. “Disruptive weather events such as heavy rain will continue to occur in the future. The city should take proactive steps to ensure its facilities are maintained and operated .”

CRK, the Southern Environmental Law Center and the City of Atlanta are ready to file a suit against the City of Atlanta based on the pattern of serious violations that continue in the discharges of the plant as well as the City’s lack of transparent. In accordance with the Clean Water Act (CWA), CRK will request an injunction prohibiting the continued egregious violation of the City’s wastewater permits, as well civil penalties, attorneys’ fees, and costs.

Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s mission is education, advocacy, and protection of the Chattahoochee River and its tributaries and watershed. This is done to restore the ecological health of the river and the wildlife that depends on it, as well as to recognize the importance of ecosystem functions throughout the world. For more information, visit