DeKalb pays $275K to settle lawsuits over water and sewer spills


At least eight times since October 2015, raw sewage from DeKalb County’s decrepit sewer system has spilled into the grassy, well-manicured backyard of Joel and Kimberly Easley.

The persistent problem created health hazards, the Easleys argued in a lawsuit, and it reduced the value of their home in Decatur’s Oakhurt neighborhood.

This week, the county government agreed to pay the couple $150,000 to settle their lawsuit.

Besides the payment to the Easleys, the DeKalb Board of Commissioners also voted Tuesday to approve a $125,000 settlement with James Brown and Stephen Golden, two neighbors who said they endured similar problems when a water pipe leak turned their Decatur-area properties into “wetlands.”

The settlements are the latest cost in the county’s ongoing, $1.35 billion effort to repair its aging and spill-prone water and sewage system. DeKalb is under a federal court order requiring the county to upgrade its infrastructure and prevent sewage spills.

“Our government is working to address capacity issues in our sewer system and to continue to reduce sanitary sewer overflows,” said DeKalb CEO Mike Thurmond in a statement. “With 60 percent of sanitary sewer overflows in DeKalb county caused by fats, oils and grease being poured down sink drains, residents and businesses also play an important partnership role.”

The number of sewage spills in DeKalb has gradually declined over the last five years, from 159 in 2012 to 135 last year. In all, the county reported 703 spills during that time.

DeKalb officials acknowledged last year it under-reported the number of sewage spills to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. An assistant watershed director was fired and the county corrected the record, but it could still face fines.

Meanwhile, the county still hasn’t fully repaired the sewage spill problems at the Easleys property, though it plans to do so. The Easleys, who recently moved to California, sold their Oakhurst home after disclosing the sewage issues to the new buyers.

“The county made no effort to investigate the cause of the sewage overflows,” according to the Easleys’ lawsuit, filed Jan. 23. “The county refused to properly treat the contaminated areas and left fecal excrement and solid waste for plaintiffs to clean up.”

The water flooding problems at issue in the lawsuit by Brown and Golden were corrected in October 2014, when the county repaired a 64-inch water main, according to their lawsuit.

Their attorney, Martin Shelton, said the settlement was “satisfactory” but declined to comment further, citing confidentiality provisions of the settlement.

DeKalb Commissioner Kathie Gannon, the board’s presiding officer, said the county is working hard to fix its sewage problems. She said the settlements resolve potentially expensive litigation with residents who had legitimate complaints.

“Going to court is always a gamble. If we lost, it would have been a whole lot more money,” Gannon said.

The county government is taking several steps to improve the reliability and capacity of its sewer system.

The DeKalb Commission approved two contracts worth a combined $35.4 million this month to clean major trunk lines and repair infrastructure in the Decatur and Avondale Estates area.

In addition, the county is continuing to evaluate wastewater collection system weaknesses and testing for problems that can lead to spills.

“We’re ready to move on,” said Joel Easley. “We’re happy to see the county is working to resolve any ongoing issues.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Kennesaw will hold qualifying for City Council posts
Kennesaw will hold qualifying for City Council posts

Kennesaw will hold a general election Nov. 7 to elect three at-large City Council members. Qualifying will be held between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Aug. 21-23 (closed noon-1 p.m. for lunch) in the Training Room, Kennesaw City Hall, 2529 J.O. Stephenson Ave., Kennesaw. The qualifying fee for each Council candidate is $360. Those elected will serve four-year...
Forsyth County commissioner resigns post
Forsyth County commissioner resigns post

Forsyth County District 2 commissioner Rick Swope has resigned from the post after less than a year on the job. County officials said that Swope’s resignation effective at noon Aug. 15 came as a result of his acceptance of an executive position with E*TRADE, an investment and stock trading firm. Officials said the job came with the requirement...
State suspends Atlanta road construction during eclipse
State suspends Atlanta road construction during eclipse

With a solar eclipse expected to put tens of thousands of motorists on the road to the north Georgia mountains, state transportation officials have decided to give construction in metro Atlanta a break. Today the Georgia Department of Transportation announced it will suspend construction-related activities in the Atlanta area...
Sandy Springs to see overnight sewer cleaning
Sandy Springs to see overnight sewer cleaning

Fulton County has announced overnight sanitary sewer cleaning on Roswell Road (Ga. 9) in Sandy Springs that may affect overnight traffic in the coming days. Woolpert Inc., the county Department of Public Works’ contractor, will be working from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. No road closures are planned, but logistics require the project to take place over...
Partial road closing set for DeKalb’s Pangborn Circle
Partial road closing set for DeKalb’s Pangborn Circle

Pangborn Circle will be closed to through traffic from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 21 from Coralwood Drive to Fairoaks Road to remove a large tree at 1681 Stonecliff Drive, Decatur. Road closure and detour signs will be placed in the area to advise motorists of construction work and traffic restrictions. Information: contact Christine Keller, scheduling...
More Stories