Atlanta watershed management jumps to fix Reynoldstown flooding issues

After years of residents' complaints, workers are trudging through Reynoldstown mud to remedy worries of standing water.

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If Atlanta’s watershed department didn't address wonky piping that’s causing flooding issues in Reynoldstown, some residents said they’d sue.

But on March 11, within hours of catching wind of tentative legal action from Reynoldstown inhabitants and landowners, the department had a backhoe in the neighborhood, digging dirt in a search for an underground rainwater runoff system that was installed — and forgotten — some decades ago.

Members of Reynoldstown’s neighborhood Facebook group claim they’ve for years been asking for the city’s help with the stormwater system that’s been flooding properties with swimming pool-esque puddles in backyards, which Lillian Govus, spokeswoman for the watershed department, called a “private property matter."

Still, the city claims it already had plans to check out the site before any threat of lawsuits arose. "We've been out to the site before," Govus said. "It's complicated due to location across multiple private properties."

Fed up with their complaints getting overlooked, neighborhood resident Paul Vranicar rounded up paperwork from 19 afflicted people, which would have given the city 30 days to fix the broken, buried pipes before they make claims for damages.

Neighbors hoped to quell worries of the standing water accumulating from “a stream bed, storm sewer easement, and sewage overflow system that are used and relied upon by the City of Atlanta and the City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management.”

“A street constructed and maintained by the city, known as Walthall Street, bisects this streambed that has drained water from the Reynoldstown basin for thousands of years,” the letter said. “Due to its location and the manner of its construction, Walthall Street acts as a dam.”

And when these puddles form, the letter notes, they become festering grounds for bugs and bacteria in the year’s warmer months, which has some Reynoldstowners fretting about the recent Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease believed to be linked to birth defects in newborn children. Georgia saw its first reported case when a traveler visiting Columbia returned with the infection on Feb. 3. The person has since fully recovered.

Vranicar initially planned to drop off his collection of pre-litigation files at City Hall on March 11. But he opted not to file the paperwork after what some neighbors call an “impressive response” by the city.

Atlanta’s watershed management department on March 10 obtained a “one-time right of entry” agreement which allows city workers to dig through privately-owned Reynoldstown earth to find the source of the problem. “We found an inlet that had been covered up with debris, so we’ve released that,” Govus said. “Also, we found a manhole that we’re rebuilding and elevating to promote flow.” 

Vranicar, grateful that watershed management jumped to remedy the problem, said he thinks its quick response was likely prompted by "a combination of media interest, potential legal claims, and neighborhood outcry."

Watershed management teams, Govus said, should be wrapping up all the work by today.