By John Schaffner

A group of engineers and environmentalists, who five years ago unsuccessfully tried to convince the city that storm water ponds, not tunnels, were the way to solve much of the city’s combined sewer problems, might have been totally shocked if they attended the Oct. 8 BeltLine fourth quarter briefing.

Standing in front of an audience of about 100 people was Joe Basista, former consultant to the city who pushed the tunnel solution and pooh poohed any notion of storm water ponds being useful or worth the city’s investment.

Now, five years later and as deputy commissioner of the city’s Department of Watershed Management, he was describing a proposed storm water pond as part of the BeltLine park system as an “elegant solution,” “significant public amenity” that will “fit seamlessly into the lineal park.”

Basista described the plan to place two storm water ponds in the North Avenue Park behind the City Hall East building in Midtown Atlanta as “a great opportunity.”

The pond project will be implemented on about 4.7 acres of the proposed parkland and will provide a storm water management pond with the detention of 9 million gallons of storm water runoff. “The pond will retain flow from a 100-year storm. It will reduce the peak rate of flow that flows to the existing combined sewer trunk and thus offer capacity relief to that trunk,” he explained.

“So we get two things from this project,” Basista said. “We hit capacity relief for our combined sewer that I need to have under our wastewater consent decree program. That fulfills the consent decree capacity relief. In addition, I get this storm water management pond that will provide localized flood control and flood relief in the North Avenue area,” he added.

“It is a much more elegant solution to this capacity relief problem than if I just built a deep tunnel,” Basista stated. “It is a win-win. We get both capacity relief and storm water management and, better yet, we are saving some money.

“The original project for this capacity relief area was a $40 million deep tunnel,” he explained. “As much as I like to build deep tunnels, this is a more elegant solution. This is a $30 million project that replaces it.”

He pointed out that this will save the ratepayers $10 million and “the original project only provided sewer capacity relief. It didn’t do anything for storm water.”

Basista said the storm water pond project also offers a more sustainable, environmentally friendly solution, with a dual pond system for flood management and integrated wetlands for water quality improvements. He also said it would increase the aesthetics of the park.