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JUST IN: Unknown amount of sewage overflows into Chattahoochee River offshoot
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JUST IN: Unknown amount of sewage overflows into Chattahoochee River offshoot

JUST IN: Unknown amount of sewage overflows into Chattahoochee River offshoot
Photo Credit: STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC
After days of heavy rain, a Chattahoochee River overflow area is filled with water along Riverview Road in Mableton on Dec. 30, 2018.  

JUST IN: Unknown amount of sewage overflows into Chattahoochee River offshoot

A pump failure on New Year’s Eve at a Cobb County water treatment plant was still causing the overflow of sewage into one of the Chattahoochee River’s main tributaries Wednesday afternoon.

A mixture of rainwater, creek water and untreated wastewater continues to overflow into Nickajack Creek just south of Discovery Boulevard, said county spokesman Ross Cavitt. But, he said, the county’s drinking water is safe.

Lewis Hays, a compliance manager with the state’s watershed protection group, said pump systems have two areas: a dry side where electrical components are kept and a wet side from where the water is pulled.

He said the dry area of the pump at the South Cobb Water Reclamation Facility somehow got water inside it and this caused the pump to fail.

Cavitt said authorities don’t know how that happened and won’t know until they remove water from the facility.


READPlant manager allegedly ordered chemicals be washed into Chattahoochee


Cavitt said the land affected by the overflow is owned by the county and fairly remote, but workers are posting warning signs and closing nearby trails.

Officials with neither the county nor the state seem to know how much sewage has been spilled.

“With all the rain, it’ll be difficult to come up with an exact estimate, but they’ll make a guess based on what they saw of the overflow at the manholes,” said Hays, whose agency will be investigating the spill.

What they do know is that the situation wouldn’t be as bad if metro Atlanta wasn’t already saturated.

The National Weather Service deemed 2018 one of the wettest years metro Atlanta has ever had, with more than 65 inches of rain. In the soaking run-up to the end of year celebration, meteorologists predicted up to six inches of rain. 

Cavitt said back-up systems were in place, “but they were taken out in the incident.”

He said it is too early to determine how much this will cost the county.

For years, spills have caused large fines for governments throughout the metro area, the worst being in DeKalb County and the city of Atlanta.

Cobb County Government
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JUST IN: Unknown amount of sewage overflows into Chattahoochee River offshoot

Cobb County Government

After more than 147 million gallons of wastewater spilled into the Chattahoochee in the five years prior to 2016, Atlanta got its initial approval to pay $378,000 in fines to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. 

DeKalb was fined $294,000 in 2017 for not only failing to uphold federal standards but also not reporting 48 sewage spills between 2012 and 2016. DeKalb county has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to improving its deteriorating sewage system.


When too little rain caused a problemCobb hopes Hurricane Florence can help rid 400K people of stinky water


Previous reporting by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution indicates Gwinnett and Cobb counties believe newer systems and routine maintenance have saved them from chronic spills.

Cobb is taking this one seriously.

“It will be all-hands-on-deck until we can address the situation and figure out what caused the problem,” Cobb commission chairman Mike Boyce said Wednesday in a news release.

Cobb has had to ask other municipalities, including one in South Florida, for extra pumps to clear the clogged pipes at the water treatment plant and the swollen manholes.


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JUST IN: Unknown amount of sewage overflows into Chattahoochee River offshoot

Photo Credit: www.accessatlanta.com
Days after a sewage backup sent inches of contaminated water into two homes, owners and tenants are fighting the county to get help cleadning and repairing the damage.

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News

  • Parts of the Midwest are seeing record flooding as rivers overrun their banks and inundate homes and businesses, displacing hundreds of people. >> Read more trending news  In Nebraska, Kyle Simpson and his friend Gayland Stouffer spent a long day Sunday cleaning Simpson’s flooded property on the Platte River, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. As the pair was trudging back to their car, which was parked more than a mile away, Stouffer spotted what looked like a refrigerator not too far off what remained of the road.  As Stouffer went to check it out, Simpson skeptically looked on. “And he opens it up and says, ‘It’s full of beer,’” Simpson said, according to the Journal Star. “I said, “Yeah right.’” “And he reaches in and says, “It’s ice cold,’” Simpson recounted. The fridge, it turns out, was full of cold beer and what else could they do? They took a selfie with the refrigerator and drank a few brewskies, both marveling over the chances of stumbling across a refrigerator full of beer in the middle of nowhere after a hard day’s work. >> Trending: Mother slashes man with sword after catching him molesting her daughter, police say Turns out the refrigerator full of beer came from a cabin about four miles upstream that didn’t make it through the floods. Simpson talked with the owner, according to the Journal Star, and promised to get the fridge back to him.
  • Marriott plans to open more than 1,700 new hotels over the next three years. >> Read more trending news  The hotel giant made the announcement Tuesday that it’s planning to add between 275,000 to 295,000 rooms by 2021. The new rooms would add $400 million in fee revenue in 2021 and $700 million annually when stabilized, according to a news release. The company credited its growth to a rich loyalty program, profitability of current hotels and a range of brands by Marriott.
  • Gwinnett County’s MARTA referendum — its first vote on expanding public transit in nearly 30 years — failed Tuesday. All voting precincts reported just before 11 p.m. and the unofficial results were decisive. Those who voted against the county joining MARTA and paying a new sales tax to fund transit expansion won by a clear margin. More than 91,000 votes were cast. “I was surprised,” Gwinnett Commission Chair Charlotte Nash said. “I thought it would be closer. I thought that if it failed it would be closer to 50-50.” Gwinnett has now rejected MARTA three times, including in 1971 and 1990. Since the last vote, the county has nearly tripled in population and shifted from a conservative suburb to a deeply diverse community that’s rapidly urbanizing and has shown an increased acceptance of political issues like mass transit. But the decision to call Tuesday’s referendum for a March special election — and not add it to ballots during last November’s mid-term election — provided an uphill battle for pro-transit supporters. That battle continued into Election Day. And proved a losing one. Voting started slow and picked up slightly during lunch time. The true pulse of the electorate was hard to determine based on interviews at the polls, making it difficult to determine who the low turnout would favor. However, advance voting demographics and recent polling suggested the measure would fail. “I pray to God it fails,” said 76-year-old Jim Wehner, who voted no in Lilburn. “All we’re doing is becoming a money cow for MARTA.” Several hours later, 32-year-old Justin Pass took his 2- and 5-year-old children along to vote at Norcross’ Best Friend Park. He voted yes. “I feel like it’s good to have options,” he said. “And there are unfounded negative connotations with [MARTA]. It’s just a lot of people taking it to work.” By late afternoon, some 25,000 voters had cast ballots. When added to the advance in-person votes, pro-transit forces suggested their target turnout numbers were still in reach. “Right now I think it’s in our sweet spot,” Fred Hicks, the New Georgia Project Action Fund’s campaign manager, said around 5 p.m. The opposition was confident too. “I really don’t think people who work for a living want to pay for this, considering the history of MARTA,” said Joe Newton, who opposed the referendum. “They just don’t want to do it. Nash — who helped devise the county’s transit plan, lobbied for the legislation that made its referendum possible and later went along with the controversial call to hold the vote during a special election — spoke at dozens of community meetings and town halls in recent weeks. Go Gwinnett, the pro-transit committee backed by the business community, secured a number of high-profile endorsements, including those of ex-Gov. Nathan Deal and Gwinnett’s conservative sheriff. But the main thrust of the efforts by Go Gwinnett and the New Georgia Project Action Fund were get-out-the-vote efforts targeted specifically at those deemed likely to support the referendum. The primary goal was not to change the minds of the opposition. That push continued Tuesday. Go Gwinnett and the New Georgia Project Action Fund both said their crews were knocking on doors and waving signs and texting potential voters throughout the day. It wasn’t enough. And the opposition was also active. Newton, the author of multiple anti-transit Facebook pages and websites, admitted Tuesday that he was also behind robocalls that recently went out to some Gwinnett voters. A call that went out Tuesday suggested that MARTA “planned to put thousands of apartments” in Gwinnett should the referendum pass. State Rep. Brett Harrell was one of the few elected Gwinnett Republicans to take a public stance on the vote. “The citizens of Gwinnett recognized tonight that we can do so much better,” he said Tuesday night. The county commission’s decision to hold the referendum Tuesday rather than add it to ballots during November’s higher turnout mid-term election drew instant criticism from Democrats and transit advocates. They suggested that a lower turnout standalone election would increase the odds of failure in a county where polls and surveys have shown increased acceptance of transit but older, more conservative voters tend to show up at the polls during standalone contests. “For the thousands of working families across Gwinnett who need public transit, today’s vote is hard fought and dearly lost,” Democratic Party of Georgia chairwoman Nikesha Williams said in a statement. “In spite of the deliberate decision to place this election in an off month and undermine voter turnout, we saw a bipartisan coalition come together for transit, volunteers hustling to get out the vote, and thousands of voters show up to say yes to MARTA.” Indeed, Tuesday’s referendum is unlikely to be the last time Gwinnett County residents hear about transit expansion. Nash, who spent Tuesday night chatting with partygoers and intermittently checking election results on her cellphone at Go Gwinnett’s watch party, . The commission chairman has been restricted from advocating for the referendum due to county ethics rules, but said after the polls closed that transit was “too important” not to be expanded in Gwinnett eventually. After the final results came in, she had this to say: “The main thing now is to choose the right date for the next referendum.”
  • Police are searching for the identity of a woman killed by a serial killer in the early 1980s. The woman’s body was found in northwest Georgia. Samuel Little, the infamous serial killer who confessed to 90 murders across the country, told investigators that this woman was one of his victims. He said he met her in a nightclub on 9th Street in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in the early '80s. He described the victim as a light-skinned black woman with a big build who was in her early to mid-20s, according to WTVC. >> Read more trending news Little said he and the woman left the club together and went to a secluded road where he strangled her. Little said he then rolled her body off an embankment. In Little’s words, the body kept rolling, implying he was on a steep ridge. Investigators believe the victim was from the Chattanooga area, northwest Georgia or northeast Alabama. The woman’s body was found in Dade County in September 1981. Little, 78, is considered one of the most prolific serial killers in U.S. history if his confessions are true. He confessed to murdering women from California to Florida between 1970 and 2005. 'Little chose to kill marginalized and vulnerable women who were often involved in prostitution and addicted to drugs. Their bodies sometimes went unidentified and their deaths uninvestigated,' according to the report. Right now, Little is in prison in Texas. He has already been connected to two cold cases in Georgia, and now investigators are trying to match his other five confessions. The Georgia victims Earlier this year, two Bibb County investigators traveled to Decatur, Texas, to question Little. The Bibb County Sheriff's Office said in a statement that one victim was killed in 1977 and another in 1982. In the 1982 case, a woman's body was found in the backyard of a Macon home. She had been strangled. Police identified her as Fredonia Smith. The Bibb County Sheriff’s Office says Little gave it specific details and information” linking him to both slayings, and Smith’s family was notified about the new developments. Investigators were also able to link Little to the death of this Jane Doe in Dade County and are now working to identify her. Little also confessed to three other murders in Atlanta and two in Savannah, but investigators have not been able to confirm the details. In Atlanta, Little told investigators he killed a black woman between 35 and 40 years old in 1981. Years later, in 1983 or 1984, Little says he killed a 26-year-old white woman possibly from Griffith, Georgia. In 1984, he says he killed a black woman age 23-25, who was possibly a college student. In Savannah, Little told investigators he killed a black woman who was 22-23 years old in 1974 and a black woman, age 23, in 1984. Background Little was already serving a life sentence in California when he was interviewed by a Texas investigator that resulted in the confessions. Little was convicted of three California murders but is now in custody in Texas where authorities are questioning him about murders there. If the number of killings Little claims to have committed proves true, it would make him one of the most prolific killers in U.S. history. Ted Bundy confessed to 30 homicides from about 1974 to 1978. John Wayne Gacy killed at least 33 boys and young men in the 1970s. Los Angeles cold-case detectives at the time suspected Little was a serial killer, a transient and former boxer who traveled the country preying on drug addicts, troubled women and others. His criminal history includes offenses committed in 24 states spread over 56 years — mostly assault, burglary, armed robbery, shoplifting and drug violations. Those detectives determined that Little often delivered a knockout punch to women and then proceeded to strangle them while masturbating, dumping the bodies and soon after leaving town. Little is currently serving three consecutive life sentences with no possibility of parole linked to the three California murders. 'Little is in poor health and will likely stay in prison in Texas until his death. The goal now is to identify his victims and provide closure and justice in unsolved cases,' the report says.
  • The bodies of two men who were reported missing from Athens, Georgia, several months ago were found over the weekend inside a storage facility in Gwinnett County. >> Read more trending news  According to police, Joshua Jackson and Derrick Ruff were found dead Sunday inside a storage unit at the Extra Space Storage on Lawrenceville Highway. The Gwinnett County Police Department -- along with the FBI and the Athens-Clarke County Police Department -- is working the case as a homicide. Jackson and Ruff were last seen Dec. 18 driving a Ford Expedition. The Expedition was later found abandoned Dec. 21 in a neighborhood off Monfort Road. Athens-Clarke County spokesman Geof Gilland said investigators from multiple law enforcement agencies worked tirelessly on the case over the last few months.  >> Trending: Trump nominates former Delta executive Steve Dickson to lead FAA  Two people have been charged in connection with the case. Lesley Green, 30, is charged with concealing the death of another. He's being held at the Gwinnett County Jail. Robert Carlisle, 32, is charged with concealing the death of another. He's not in custody and there are two active warrants for his arrest.  Authorities believe the murders are gang-related and may be tied to other crimes in the area. The FBI wiretapped phones, according to the arrest warrant and agents said both men had talked about the investigation. Carlisle is quoted as talking about getting rid of the bodies, referring to them as 'spoiled milk' and that he 'needed to contact the janitor to clean it up.' Police said there could be more people charged in the case. >> Trending: Mother slashes man with sword after catching him molesting her daughter, police say “Our hopes were to find the two men alive,” Gilland said in a statement. “Unfortunately, on Sunday, March 17, the bodies of Joshua Jackson and Derrick Ruff were located in Gwinnett County. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the two men.” Investigators say it appears the men died of gunshot wounds. Jackson's father said Tuesday he’s relieved the search is over.  'Since they found him, it's made things a little better. Didn't want them to be found the way they were, but at least we do know we can have some closure,' Gerald Jackson said.
  • Georgia lawyer-legislators would no longer be able to automatically delay court hearings for their private clients any time they want under a proposal by an panel appointed by House Speaker David Ralston, who has come under fire for his use of legislative delays. Judges currently have little recourse when lawmakers say they have other legislative business to tend to. But the new law, if approved, would empower judges to overrule a legislator if they determine that his or her legislative business isn’t as crucial as the court case at hand. Ralston’s panel revealed its recommendations Tuesday, suggesting the law be changed to allow prosecutors, opposing counsel or “an interested party” — such as a crime victim — to object to such leave requests when the General Assembly is not in session. A judge would then weigh such factors as how long the case has been pending, the impact of the proposed delay, the nature of the legislative duties behind the request, and the “interest of justice in the granting or denial of the request.” The recommendations come after a joint Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Channel 2 Action News investigation found Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, frequently used the claim of legislative duties to delay trials for clients of his private law firm. Ralston, who has served as House speaker since 2010, delayed cases when the General Assembly was in session and often when it was not, rarely specifying what legislative responsibilities prevented him from appearing in court. In one case, where a Ralston client was charged with aggravated child molestation in Cherokee County, the speaker delayed trial 28 times between 2010 and 2014. Eventually, the district attorney dropped the case, citing a variety of reasons, including that the victim, who by then was an adult, was uncooperative. The same client still faces related charges in Gilmer County, but he has never stood trial there either. Those who’ve been most affected by Ralston’s delays – alleged crime victims and opposing parties in civil suits – said they doubt the panel’s proposed changes to the law will have any effect on Ralston himself, given the power he wields. Amanda Mosher, who has been speaking publicly against Ralston’s use of legislative delays since 2012, pointed out that the chief judge in the Appalachian Judicial Circuit wouldn’t grant the AJC or Channel 2 an interview, and the district attorney refused to answer questions about Ralston. Ralston represented the man accused of killing her husband and 4-year-old daughter in a car crash, and Mosher said his continuances stalled the case for five years. “They would never question his continuances, because they won’t question him,” Mosher said. “He’s still going to abuse this law.” The proposed changes are carried in House Bill 502, which preserves the century-old guarantee automatically granting leave requests filed for court appearances scheduled during the legislative session and for three weeks after adjournment. In fact, the bill would expand that automatic period to include seven days prior to any session. Lawyer-legislators would also retain the right to automatic leave for legislative committee meetings, regardless of when they occur. State Rep. Andrew Welch, R-McDonough, presented the bill before the Senate Special Judiciary Committee, but he quickly gave way to former State Rep. Edward Lindsey, one of the co-chairs of an advisory committee picked by Ralston to study the issue. Lindsey praised the “very strong, bipartisan group” of current and former legislators, lawyers, judges and a victim’s rights advocate who worked on the proposal. “We worked very hard over the past two and a half weeks,” Lindsey said, adding that the panel talked “to various folks in Georgia who were concerned about this issue” in developing its recommendations. Jydon Carpenter, who’s been waiting more than four years to see her ex-fiancé in court on domestic violence charges, questioned why the group didn’t reach out to her and others who say they were victims of Ralston’s clients. She said allowing judges to overrule delays is a good idea, but it won’t work if judges are intimidated by a legislator’s power. “I just think it’s a cheap excuse to say that he’s trying to fix something that he has no desire to fix,” Carpenter said. Ralston named the advisory group earlier this month amid calls by a handful of Republican legislators to step down. In an emotional speech before the House, Ralston said he had done nothing wrong in his use of legislative leave but suggested the law should change. Lindsey served five terms in the House before leaving in 2014 in an unsuccessful bid for Congress. He is a lobbyist for multinational firm Dentons and has a number of clients with business before the General Assembly this session. Lindsey co-chaired the committee with former House Democratic Rep. Ronnie Mabra, a personal injury attorney. The two men co-authored an article in the Georgia Bar Journal in December saying the law “provides some respite during session so that lawyer-legislators can manage the needs of their constituents with the demands of legal practice.” While in office, Lindsey had advocated to expand the legislative leave law to cover any time legislators say they must tend to official business. That change was made in the closing hours of the 2006 legislative session by a six-member conference committee that included Ralston as one of its members. Lindsey said the advisory panel recognized that lawyer-legislators had to represent their districts and their clients, but “as officers of the court, they have duty to promote justice in our society.” House spokesman Kaleb McMichen said Ralston had no comment on the proposed changes, saying the speaker had pledged not to interfere with the process. “He is devoting his energies in these final days of the legislative session to moving the state forward on critical issues like transit, health care reform and rural initiatives,” McMichen said. The advisory committee never met in public. Instead, members conferred over the telephone. “We had a pretty good idea what needed to be done given the level of experience our panel had,” Lindsey said. “We felt like it had been pretty well vetted over the last month and a half or so.”