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Residents monitor creek as developers set up shop

Concerns about pollution hang over Lanier Plaza construction

POSTED: August 18, 2014 12:00 a.m.

Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Headwaters Outreach Director Duncan Hughes visits Slaughterhouse Creek as he helps neighborhood residents learn about possible pollution from the Lanier Plaza redevelopment upstream.

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Behind Vanessa Hyatt-Fugate’s home, down a weed-strewn slope in the Hollywood Hills subdivision off Thompson Bridge Road, runs Slaughterhouse Creek, a narrow, babbling stream that empties into a Lake Lanier cove.

Undercut banks, exposed roots and downed trees reveal erosion’s heavy toll, a result of years of unmitigated
stormwater runoff.

In recent years, the flow of silt and sediment downstream from nearby developments and road construction prompted a dredging of the cove, costing local property owners nearly $200,000.

And these residents fear that a repeat scenario might now be in store.

Upstream, Slaughterhouse Creek flows behind the Brandon Place Apartments and former Lanier Plaza shopping center, now demolished and ready to be redeveloped.

And with new construction taking shape in the coming months to build out a 42,000-square-foot Wal-Mart grocery store and accompanying gas station, nearby residents have banded together to monitor, document and fight any pollution entering the creek, as well as address the impact of stormwater runoff.

“We were contacted by a group of neighbors concerned about potential water quality impacts to Slaughterhouse Creek,” said Duncan Hughes, headwaters outreach director with the nonprofit Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. “Property owners in that watershed have experienced some of the consequences of increased impervious surfaces and stormwater runoff with past development.”

Working with Hughes, residents such as Hyatt-Fugate, Linda Finn and Connie Propes have been diligently tracking water quality and educating their neighbors about the state regulations that developers must adhere to when it comes to erosion control.

“We offered our Get the Dirt Out training for the group, which teaches citizens how to evaluate construction sites for compliance with applicable rules and laws and, very importantly, how to appropriately document and report problems should they arise during construction,” Hughes said. “We rely on engaged citizens. This is their backyard.”

Though the redevelopment of Lanier Plaza will actually reduce the amount of impervious surface at the site, residents fear that mitigation efforts are not strong enough.

City officials have said new storm pipes, buffers and landscaping will help address concerns about runoff into the creek.

Moreover, water detention and quality improvement devices will be implemented, officials said.

But residents insist these measures will not prevent the creek from flooding during heavy rains, as runoff will still be directed into the creek.

“They’ve completely forgotten about the quantity (of runoff),” Finn said.

Hughes said the creek is already on a state list of impaired waters for bacteria.

And with stormwater runoff come additional pollutants, such as litter and oil from cars.

Monitoring this is the long-term challenge residents face in trying to keep the creek clean, Hughes said.

Propes said she felt city officials were dismissive of their concerns, first raised when fighting a rezoning request needed for the redevelopment of the shopping center to proceed.

Out of sight, out of mind is the mentality she sees.

“If they lived down here, it’d be a different story,” Propes added.

The Riverkeeper will continue to monitor the creek for E. coli, Hughes said, reporting the results on the organization’s website.

It takes only days to pollute a stream, and decades to clean it up, Hughes said.


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