What’s Up With Trail Under SR-400 & I-85

Love the Bright Orange Road Construction Barrels? You’re in Luck!
February’s weather cost the Georgia DOT contractor two weeks of work on flyover ramps linking Interstate 85  to SR-400. Traffic on Cheshire Bridge Road and Lindbergh Drive will keep dodging construction barrels at least until April.
Loren Bartlett, DOT project manager, says the project continues to move as fast as possible because of financial penalties in the state contract with Archer Western.
“The contract calls for $1869 daily penalties,” she says, noting it was to be complete by January 14, 2014.
What about the two weeks when ice and snow kept Atlanta immobile?
 
The Department will consider inclement weather as
reason to be exempt from daily fines.  The project construction budget is at $21 million. (AW’s contract is $21,423,500 for better accuracy.)
The nature trail along the creek is coming into clearer view as the ramps above are connected. By March 1 contractors laid beds of large stone along the creek, topping it with smaller gravel and compacting them into a smooth trail. The largest bridge across the main span of the North Fork is in place.  Several smaller culverts across feeder creeks will be part of the trail. At least one is poured on site, and others are expected in early March.  Decorative fences and approaches leading to the main bridge are likely to be among the last elements to be built.
Sally Sears 
Executive Director, The South Fork Conservancy

City, Neighbors Have Long Discussion Over Sewer Tank

ByEden Landow
The city of Atlanta, under the gun to meet a federal court-ordered consent decree deadline to substantially improve its wastewater management infrastructure, is trying a third time to build a massive storage tank somewhere near the confluence of the south and north forks of Peachtree Creek, but once again running into neighborhood concerns.
Neighbors turned out last week for a meeting at Rock Springs Presbyterian Church to find out more about the project and voice their concerns, which included security, odor, effect to property values, unsightliness, sewer gas odors and unforeseen problems.
They complained the community is “taking one for the team” by being unduly impacted with massive projects, including the Ga. 400 interchange, Clifton Corridor rail construction, Georgia Power Co.  transmission lines — and now this water-management project.
“What is our neighborhood doing to get in exchange for this,” some asked.
The project is about 60 percent through the design stage and would include building one 10-million gallon, raised overflow tank off Cheshire Bridge Road at 2061 Liddell Drive. The tank would be about 55 feet tall and 185 feet wide, with a pumping station and electrical station on the flood plain at 2001 Cheshire Bridge Rd., near the north end of Lenox Road.
Plans call for tunneling diluted sewage overflow under Cheshire Bridge Road to the Liddell Road tank when the main system is overcapacity, which is usually about once a month, said EDT Waterworks principal engineer Donald Fry, who explained the project in a slideshow presentation.
By email, Lindbergh-Lavista Corridor Coalition board member Courtney Harkness said, “The City of Atlanta has a decision to make: Does it want to redevelop the Cheshire Bridge corridor or does it want to make the area an industrial dumping ground? If the City goes forward with this sewer project off of Cheshire Bridge Road, we will know what path they have chosen.”
Fry said the city needs to do something to protect the creeks and environment and that the city believes this is the best and most cost-effective way to do it.
The project is estimated to cost about $35 million.
“We selected the center of the only commercial and industrial area in the vicinity,” Fry said.
The project, sited on city-owned land, will effectively double the capacity of the current flow. He said the project is not foreseen to ever have more tanks, though he said the site is large enough for  a second one.
The city initially planned to build the overflow tanks off Zonolite Road, then relocated the project off Kay Lane. Both locations were taken off the table after residents and business owners fought against building the project.
According to Sharon Matthews, senior watershed director for the city of Atlanta, to comply with the consent decree, the city must have construction completed in June 2014 and that construction would begin on this facility around the first of the year.
Harkness said the group is concerned the city’s 1999 Cheshire Bridge redevelopment plan would be jeopardized.
“This is the future Cheshire Bridge neighborhood, a multi-ethnic community that integrates open-air shopping, dining and entertainment with new residential development,” Harkness said. “A 55 ft. x 185 ft. sewer tank that will only be used, by the City’s estimation, for four to six hours each month to handle sewer overflow, at a cost to taxpayers of nearly $40 million, does not jibe with this redevelopment plan at all.”
Area residents, who worked to get the City to develop this plan in 1999 and then again to get the City to rezone Cheshire Bridge Road to Neighborhood Commercial (NC) zoning in 2005, feel abandoned by the City and its leadership with the proposal of this sewer tank project, she said.
Matthews said the tank can be built with architectural features and landscaping so that it will not diminish the looks of the community.
Harkness said the community feels the “burden of achieving clean water is being ‘dumped’ on in  this area of town, even though the issue affects a much larger area. They feel that other neighborhoods and jurisdictions (Buckhead, DeKalb County) that are affected by Peachtree Creek should also have to come to the table to solve this issue.”
“The only positive part of this project is that it (supposedly) will keep sewer run off out of Peachtree Creek,” Harkness said. “However, area residents feel that the burden of achieving clean water is being ‘dumped’ on this area of town, even though the issue affects a much larger area.”
An initial community meeting was cancelled last month “due to issues that have to be addressed with internal stakeholders.”
To read the entire article and add your comments, go to the Virginia-Highland/Druid Hills Patch by clicking on this link:
http://vahi.patch.com/articles/city-neighbors-have-long-discussion-over-sewer-tank

Areas to be tested for lead

By  Bo Emerson
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Environmental Protection Agency will test for toxic lead residue in Morningside and other Atlanta neighborhoods surrounding a former lead-smelting factory, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.
At 740 Lambert Drive N.E., near Cheshire Bridge and Piedmont, the Metalico Evans factory processed 5,000 tons of lead a year from 1935 until the mid-1990s. Until 1977, it operated without air pollution control devices.
The factory was replaced by a cement plant in 2003. Bulldozers leveled the buildings and scraped away the soil before the cement company took ownership.
But for several decades lead dust would have left the factory chimneys to drift over the thousands of residences in the nearby Lindbergh, Cheshire Bridge and Morningside neighborhoods.
Lead is a neurotoxin that accumulates in the body and can cause brain damage, reduced intelligence, developmental problems, stunted growth, seizures and death. Lead dust can drift three to five miles from a factory source.
Inquiries about the defunct factory from a reporter at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2009 led to an EPA assessment of the risks posed by fallout and runoff. This month, USA Today published the results of a yearlong investigation into hundreds of similar “ghost factories” around the country, mentioning three Atlanta facilities.
The EPA’s assessment and a subsequent analysis, completed in March, caused enough concern to warrant the additional soil tests, EPA officials said. At the Lambert Drive site, the EPA found soil with lead concentrations above the 400 parts-per-million considered safe by the agency, but no sampling was done outside the boundaries of the factory site.
The preliminary analysis “assumes a release [of lead dust] exists,” EPA Region 4 spokesman James Pinkney said in a written statement. Pinkney said the EPA is developing a plan to sample the soil in residential yards around the former factory, and the soil of waterways that drain the area. That sampling will begin this summer, he said.
The EPA declined requests for a phone interview to discuss in greater detail the potential for contamination and the history of the agency’s actions to safeguard residents.
The agency has not yet alerted residents of neighborhoods around the plant about any potential hazard in their soil. Several told the AJC they were unaware that a lead factory ever existed nearby.
“Nobody’s mentioned it,” said Dot Marrinson, 91, who has lived in Morningside since 1963.
Rich Sussman, a retired National Parks Service executive, who’s lived and gardened in the area since 1974, said he had no inkling there was a smelting factory less than a mile from his house. “I never knew it was there.”
There were at least two other sites in Atlanta where lead apparently was processed, both owned by the Miller Metal Co. One was in a spot now occupied by the Williams Street exit from the Downtown Connector. The other was in an area on downtown’s Decatur Street that became the Grady Homes housing project, owned by the Atlanta Housing Authority.
When the apartments at Grady Homes were slated for demolition in 2006 to make way for redevelopment, the EPA suggested that the housing authority conduct further testing at the property.
The AHA removed a few thousand tons of contaminated soil in 2008, before transforming the area into a mixed-use apartment community called Ashley at Auburn Pointe, according to AHA spokesman Rick White.
When it settles to the ground, lead tends to bind with bare soil, according to Marsha Black, associate professor in environmental health science at the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health. It poses a special danger to growing children who might play in the dirt and then put dirty hands or dirty toys in their mouths.
Local and federal environmental officials “should have done a lot more in the last few years” to inform residents about the area’s history, said Colleen Kiernan, director of the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club. “If credible evidence demonstrates that people are at risk, there should be some path toward addressing the problem,” she said.
Based on its investigation to date, the EPA has raised concerns about possible waterborne lead contamination. The Lambert Drive property drains into the south fork of Peachtree Creek, and from there into the Chattahoochee River. Lead dust that washed off the property would have ended up in the creek sediment, and possibly been ingested by any of the dozens of fish species that live there.
The EPA’s report pointed out that fishermen catch many of those fish, and that some anglers consume what they catch.
Sussman also sometimes makes a supper from his backyard bounty of radishes, lettuce, carrots, beets and basil. A Master Gardener, he’s had his soil tested many times — for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. But not for lead.
He never thought it necessary.
He still doubts there’s any need. But he’d like to know.
Staff writer Craig Schneider contributed to this article.
 

Public Meeting About Nature Trail Set for April 10

By Sally Sears
A plan to link two  major nature preserves in Virginia-Highland and Morningside is gaining momentum in the neighborhood.
The South Fork Conservancy and  Park Pride are leading discussions about a trail along the south fork of  Peachtree Creek connecting Morningside Nature Preserve and Herbert  Taylor-Daniel Johnson Nature Preserve.
The first public meeting scheduled for Tuesday, April 10 at 6 p.m. at Haygood  Methodist Church could demonstrate some of the benefits and challenges  of creating more greenspace with easy access to walkers, joggers and  perhaps bikers.
Creek  cleanups and trail building are expected later in the spring.
Here’s  what one avid creek paddler found on a cleanup downstream from Cheshire  Bridge Road.
From Richard Grove, Georgia Kayaker:
There are good river days and there are great river days. Today was a great one. Today  after 9.5 hours, 25 more tires were removed along with 3 shopping  carts, some carpet, a picnic table umbrella, 3 golf balls, mirror,  fishing reel, vehicle tail light lens, sleeping bag, trash can lid, PVC  pipe, wire, metal stud, shoes, shirts, roof shingles, safety fence, silt  fence, fire extinguisher, lots of aluminum cans, plastic bags &  bottles, a disposable razor. Still looking for a toothbrush. The pile is  huge. Next work day will be from Cheshire Bridge Road.
I have  never removed a Herbie trash container or a shopping cart from the  river. I thought the Herbie was a bear to get out but nothing compared  to the shopping carts which took more than an hour to dig each one out.
One  day next week I will cut up the tree in the river across from the trash  pile area which will make the river look much better from that view  point.
I see and hear people walking the trail when I am in the  river working but the only chance I get to talk to anyone is when I’m  either starting or finishing and at my truck.. When I was cleaning in  the area of the trash pile several people came to the riverbank to say,  hello. Sunday I met a couple who walk the trail several times a week.
A  year from now there will probably be less trash in the river but more  on the trail. Fact-of-life, Americans are pigs. Where they go so come  their trash.
Sally Sears is the Executive Director of the South Fork Conservancy,  a nonprofit that seeks to restore, conserve and protect the Riparian systems of the South Fork of Peachtree Creek Watershed. Follow South Fork on Facebook. Learn more on their website.

Long-awaited Buckhead interchange revamp starts

Barrier walls were due to go up Tuesday at the interchange of Interstate 85 and Georgia 400 in Buckhead, marking the start of a long-anticipated reconstruction project.
Contractors working for the Georgia Department of Transportation will build ramps that will let southbound motorists on 400 connect with northbound I-85 and southbound drivers on I-85 connect to 400 northbound.
Those ramps were not included when the interchange was built in the early 1990s.
“We are excited to get this project under way,” DOT District Engineer Bryant Poole said. “When it is completed, I think the public will be very pleased with the final product, as we get some congestion relief for the arterial roads in the area.”
No lane closures will be necessary in the early stages of the work. Later, lane closures will be permitted only during evenings and weekends.
The DOT awarded a $21.5 million contract for the project last year to Atlanta-based Archer Western Contractors Ltd. The project is due to be completed by the end of next year.

Staff Writer – Atlanta Business Chronicle

Explore a New Trail Near Peachtree Creek

By Sally Sears
Invitation  to explore a meadow in winter — it’s a newly created trail through a  long-ignored slice of Midtown, beside Peachtree Creek and Interstate 85.  Popular tours of the trails last week gave dogs, owners and neighbors a  walk in nature.
The  neighbors and the South Fork Conservancy are carving a new vision for  caring for our intown creeks. Simple trails through the landscape beside  the south and north forks encourage people to walk their dogs, breathe  deeply and re-discover big hardwoods hiding in plain sight on public  land. This meadow is interstate right of way, next to a neighborhood  with almost no accessible greenspace.
Two years of cooperation helped to  build this mulch trail, weaving along the creek and through a meadow of  wild flowers and grasses.  Neighbors hope to connect the trails under  the interstate to the Morningside Nature Preserve, Zonolite Park and  then to the Herbert Taylor-Daniel Johnson Nature Preserve.
If  you want to walk it, the trail head is just across the guard rail at  Lindbergh Drive and I-85. On street parking available at Lindbergh Drive  and  Armand Road.
More information is available at the South Fork Conservancy website.
Sally Sears is the Executive Director of thr South Fork Conservancy, a nonprofit that seeks to restore, conserve and protect the Riparian systems of the South Fork of Peachtree Creek Watershed. This article appeared in the Virginia Highland/North Druid Hills Patch on January 11, 2012.

Georgia Conservancy Event: Trail Clean-up at Peachtree Creek Nov., 20th

Next Sunday, November 20th at 9am, Generation Green and South Fork  Conservancy will partner to clean-up trails, build benches and plant trees at  Peachtree Creek in Atlanta. The trail clean-up area is located near the  intersection of Lindbergh Drive and Armand Road. Volunteers are asked to  register for this event, to wear boots and bring gloves.
Generation Green is a program of  the Georgia Conservancy creating “exciting and inclusive” opportunities for  future generations of environmental leaders who will protect Georgia’s  environment. The program uses educational opportunities, social events,  adventure trips and service projects as mediums of engagement.
South Fork Conservancy is a  volunteer organization of neighbors and businesses with an aim at sustaining  Atlanta’s creeks and quality of life.  The organization is the beginning  part of an initiative aimed at restoring, and repairing Peachtree Creek to its  “rightful place in the forefront of the region’s natural resources.”
For directions, and registration information for this event, click here.
Continue reading on Examiner.com Georgia Conservancy Event: Trail Clean-up at Peachtree Creek Nov., 20th – Atlanta healthy living | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/healthy-living-in-atlanta/georgia-conservancy-event-trail-clean-up-at-peachtree-creek-nov-20th#ixzz1dcaWxTe7
Continue reading on Examiner.com Georgia Conservancy Event: Trail Clean-up at Peachtree Creek Nov., 20th – Atlanta healthy living | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/healthy-living-in-atlanta/georgia-conservancy-event-trail-clean-up-at-peachtree-creek-nov-20th#ixzz1dcaPKAJg

Peachtree Creek South-Forkers Get Their Sling Blade On

Volunteers improve a path along the South Fork of Peachtree Creek to create a walking trail and connect green spaces of Atlanta.
By Margaret Landers | Buckhead Patch
The unceasing whizz of traffic echoed from beyond the bend in the creek, competing with the chirping melodies of birds in the tops of the maples. Two Canadian geese paddled along the creek water, now brown and thick with mud from the recent rains. The scent of honeysuckle lifted in the air, only to be quickly suppressed by putrid sewage fumes leaking up from their pipes underground.
On Wednesday, about 20 volunteers — armed with sling blades, chainsaws, clippers, cutters and Prosecutor solution — trekked through the overgrown trail alongside Peachtree Creek to fight for the life of the waterway and clear a path so the public can enjoy it.
Sally Sears of the South Fork Conservancy, which is heading up the project, commanded the troops from the trailhead, on the cul de sac of Armand Road. Machete Man Jeremy Dahl was there, armed with multiple machetes and a well-versed knowledge of forest sustainability. Professionals came from Jackson Spalding as part of the firm’s “Day in the Field” initiative. Other crew leaders came from the Conservancy, Olmsted Linear Park Alliance, and Peachtree Hills. 
Volunteer Dave Kaufman knows the trail and the creek well; he canoed it in the ’90s, and wrote a book, “Peachtree Creek ,” highlighting the watershed and its need for preservation. “Peachtree Creek is a well-kept secret in general,” he said. “I’d hate to see it just getting paved.”
The team’s efforts focused on clearing an open walking trail, hopefully suitable for buggies to roll upon, cutting down invasive plants from the forest, and building a culvert of stones to bridge the path across a minor trench. Sears’ vision is a safe and beautiful place for the Atlanta community to share and enjoy. She said, “This is for the mamas, the grandmamas, the babies…” She called Peachtree Creek a neglected treasure. “People have loved this creek for a long time,” she said.
Lindridge Martin Manor resident Bob Scott often walks the trail with his dogs. This spring the weeds have overgrown much of the remaining path. “Mother nature has taken over,” he said. Scott spent the first half of the afternoon hacking away at weeds and vines to clear the footpath near the trailhead. “It’s a lot tougher going than we thought,” he said, wiping sweat from his forehead.
Dahl knows the science behind the degradation of the forest. He said the biggest threat to a forest is insularization, or dividing a forest into pieces separated by urban development. “We (biology conservationists) call it the eternal external threat,” he said, “Divide, divide, divide.” Dahl explained that when a forest’s size is cut by dividers, the amount of plant and animal species in each forest section decreases exponentially, leading to extinction. But when forests are connected, the species growth is “fantastic.” The process is called the species area effect. “My aim is to connect up the forest,” he said. Dahl recognized the importance of upkeeping the health of Peachtree Creek. “The biological corridors are our streams.”
Sears recognized the proximity of Atlanta’s existing parks along Peachtree Creek, and she’s working with the conservancy and community supporters to make the connection. The project will encompass about two miles of trails, leading from the entrance behind the Cedar Chase condominiums off Lindbergh Drive, under Ga. 400 and I-85, to the confluence of the north and south forks of the creek.
One section of the path leads directly underneath 400 and 85, into a den of jumbled rock, spray-paint artistry and abodes of the homeless. Kaufman called the space a “cathedral of potential” for the future green pathway. He said it could be a sculpture garden or a skate park.
Sears said the project is gaining momentum and public awareness as the conservancy recei es modest grants and neighborhood support. Morningside Elementary School has provided support, as well as the Kendeda Fund and the MillionMile Greenway. Kaufman said completion of the project is a matter of manpower and money. “So far, so good,” he said

DeKalb groups: EPA’s sewer mandate is weak

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The federal Environment Protection Agency’s mandate for DeKalb County to improve its sewer system is a “slap on the wrist” with little oversight and weak penalties, DeKalb residents said.
On Wednesday, six DeKalb environmental groups asked the EPA to issue stricter penalties for DeKalb’s continued sewage spills, hoping added pressure from the EPA would guarantee speedier clean up of affected rivers and streams.
In December, the EPA issued a consent decree, mandating DeKalb upgrade its sewer system after reporting more than 800 raw sewage spills in five years. The decree, which DeKalb spent 14 months negotiating with the federal government, also includes a $453,000 fine for the spills and an additional $600,000 to clean up the South River, Snapfinger Creek and the South Fork on Peachtree Creek near Emory University.
Since then, the county commission has authorized $1.35 billion in upgrades to its sewer system, which will be paid for by increases in residents’ water and sewer bills.
However, the county has not announced any timeline or clean-up plans for the spills, which continue to occur daily, residents said.
“My concern is that taxpayers are having to foot that huge bill in increased water rates. I feel there needs to be more accountability,” said Gil Turman, president of the South DeKalb Neighborhood Coalition. “We’re in this because of a lack of accountability. For 20 years, the county has been negligent and having sewage spills so regularly. And now they just get a slap on the wrist.”
Turman’s coalition, along with the DeKalb Soil and Water Conservation District, the Miners Creek Circle Civic Association, the Metropolitan Atlanta Urban Watershed Institute, the Newly Organized Citizens Requesting Aquifer Protection and the South River Watershed Alliance, submitted a 12-page letter Wednesday to the federal government demanding stricter oversight. Wednesday was the deadline for the public comment period.
A spokeswoman for the EPA said her agency and the U.S. Department of Justice will evaluate all of the comments and then make a decision as to whether to issue tougher penalties.
Ted Rhinehart, DeKalb’s deputy chief operating officer for infrastructure, said the county had not reviewed the residents’ comments, but said DeKalb believes the decree is “fair, reasonable and in the public interest.”
Federal law allows the EPA to charge the county up to $37,500 a day for spills, but the decree only says fines of up to $500 can be charged per spill.
“It doesn’t seem like they would have much incentive if they are not complying,” GreenLaw attorney David Deganian told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Greenlaw, an Atlanta-based environmental legal group, drafted the residents’ letter.
Residents said they worry DeKalb could end up like Atlanta, which signed a consent decree in 1998 committing to $4 billion in water upgrades, but has been given several extensions.
“This is a problem that has gone on for decades. As we have learned from the City of Atlanta, there are no simple solutions and significant oversight is very important,” said Justine Thompson, GreenLaw’s executive director. “We don’t think there are adequate assurances that the consent order terms will be met.”
DeKalb officials said they have been trying to avoid the high costs and legal battles that plagued Atlanta by moving forward with the work.

I-85/Ga. 400 Interchange Could Ease Traffic

Proposed I-85/Ga. 400 Interchange
Metro Atlanta commuters could get some relief as the Georgia Department of Transportation is in the early planning stages of building a new interchange connecting Georgia 400 southbound to Interstate 85 northbound and I-85 southbound to Georgia 400 northbound. 

“It is definitely the most anticipated (project) in a while,” Georgia DOT Deputy Press Secretary Jill Goldberg told Channel 2 Action News reporter Richard Elliot. “We’ve had more people wanting this done since the road was originally built.” 
Georgia 400 from I-85 north to I-285 was completed in the early 1990s at a cost of $180 million, not adjusted for inflation. Goldberg said there wasn’t enough money budgeted to connect Ga. 400 to I-85, except the southbound lanes. Since then, commuters have had to negotiate Sidney Marcus Boulevard, the Buford-Spring Connector, Lenox Road and Cheshire Bridge Road if they wanted to go between the two major thoroughfares. 
Now, Goldberg said, the state sold $40 million in bonds to pay for the new interchange project. She told Elliot the bonds will be repaid in seven years using money collected from the Ga. 400 toll. 
On Friday, the Georgia DOT issued Requests For Qualifications. That’s the process where interested construction companies submit their qualifications to build the project. After the DOT selects qualified companies, the DOT will ask those companies for bids on the project. 
Many Buckhead neighborhoods have supported the plan for years and pushed the DOT to begin construction. One northeast Atlanta neighborhood, however, did not. Residents of the Lindridge-Martins Manor neighborhood opposed the plan because it directly affects their area. One of the proposed ramps would go along Peachtree Creek, and their properties. 
“We were worried about this for a long time,” said resident Art Schoeck. His property would be in the shadow of the proposed flyover ramp. “Encroachment has always been an issue, and so when we’re going to be encroached upon, we’d like it to be in a positive way.” 
Schoeck and other residents said they changed their opinion of the project when the DOT agreed to build a landscaped walking trail along Peachtree Creek once the project is completed. The DOT worked with the neighborhood association and the Southfork Conservancy on the project and plan to hook it into a series of trails that winds through that area. 
“When we looked at the manner in which they were going to do this with a trail and landscaping and the fencing, if they do what they say they’re going to do, it looks like it’s going to have a positive impact on the neighborhood,” said Schoeck. 
Commuters seemed to like the idea since many do not appreciate navigating their way from I-85 to Ga. 400 on a daily basis. 
“I think it’s absolutely great,” said Catalina Decastillo. “It’s going to make it convenient especially for the people who live around this area. So, whoever thought of that is very smart. It’s about time.” 
The winning construction company will also design the interchange. The DOT hopes to have the project completed in 2013.