The city of Atlanta has escaped having to pay millions of dollars in fines for failing to complete its $4 billion sewer system overhaul on time because of a new agreement with state and federal environmental regulators.

Last October, city officials said that two tunnels that constitute the largest portion of the overhaul, were miles behind schedule and would take an extra year to finish, being delayed until November 2008.

The delay could have cost the city millions of dollars in penalties from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, which oversee the court-mandated upgrading of Atlanta’s aging sewer system.

However, the two agencies recently granted the city a 12-month extension to finish the project, removing the possibility of fines—unless the city fails to finish by next November—and lifting the onus on city taxpayers and the self-proclaimed “sewer mayor” Shirley Franklin.

There have been extra costs to the city since the delay was announced last November. The project has also racked up at least $900,000 in additional construction charges.

–John Schaffner