ATLANTA -- Every time it rains hard, the same Atlanta neighborhood floods with water and sewage. 11Alive News spent the week in Peoplestown and took a stand for the community. We took residents' concerns and the outrage you expressed in our petitions to Mayor Kasim Reed, who is now promising a fix.
"Can we get a commitment from your today that you will come up with a permanent solution, not just pay these people for damaged property, but fix the underlying problem?" 11Alive's Devin Fehely asked Mayor Reed on an impromptu tour of Peoplestown Monday.
"My commitment is that I'm going to find a remedy that is fair and acceptable to the people that live here," Reed said. "I need more time so that I know that when I give an answer, I can stand behind it. I don't come out and make quick promises or commitments, because I take my promises very seriously."
RELATED | Storm water, raw sewage flood Atlanta homes
Every single neighbor along a stretch of Atlanta Avenue and Ormond Street has a story about how the routine flooding has affected their lives.
National Guardsmen Adam Bellinger lost another car last week: "I had to have my neighbors next door come and help me push the car and float it back into my yard."
Carpenter Michael Sink lost business: "We keep an eye on those two manhole covers and if they start to geyser, then we run down and move everything."
Homeowner Christina Nixon lost a fence: "It all just collapsed. You can see it laying right there."
But mostly, this Peoplestown neighborhood has lost patience.
Crystal Perkins just moved into the neighborhood. "This is the time where we should be enjoying our home and getting to know our neighborhood," she said, getting choked up and looking away. She just realized she owns a home that gets flooded by overflow sewage about once a year. The week of Friday the 13th was especially unlucky: they were flooded twice.
The city sewer line that runs behind Atlanta Avenue and Ormond Street doesn't just flood -- it erupts. "It looks like a volcano," long-time resident Gary Lamb said.
Janet Ward of the Atlanta Watershed Department spoke with 11Alive News on Friday. She said the city has sent employees three times since Monday to survey the post-flood damage.
The city has said that while there is evidence of flooding, it believes it is storm water runoff rather than raw sewage, and claim that during each visit, the surveyor has seen no evidence of sewage.
Homeowners, however, disagree. Ninety percent of the city's sewer system is separated with different pipes carrying sewage and storm water. Peoplestown is included in the other 10 percent. A press release sent out by the city confirms "The affected area is served by the City's combined sewer system."
"It's obvious from the smell and from the sight that it isn't just clean water and that it is, in fact, sewage," said resident William Joiner.
Homeowner Kevin Lynch tried to catch proof Wednesday night, and in a flash of lightning, you can see it: water gushing out of the concrete sewer cover behind his house. The force is so explosive that, for the second time this week, the heavy cover was pushed off. Manhole covers were disrupted in several places down the line. Yards, garages, and homes flooded.
Residents have been trying to get the problem fixed for more than a decade.
Thursday morning, neighbors told 11Alive News that the city refused to send clean up help. That afternoon, the Department of Watershed Management sent us a one-line statement: "The City has made its cleanup contractor available to all affected property owners".
It was good news for those who don't have flood insurance. But it doesn't fix the reoccurring problem.
"We're disgusted by the smell of it. We're disgusted by the expense. We're disgusted by the disruption to our lives. We want the mayor to step up and accept responsibility," Lynch said. "Mayor Reed may not have created this problem, but he needs to be a leader and fix it now."
RELATED | City says it's working on a fix, residents doubtful
At a community meeting Saturday, representatives from the Department of Watershed Management told residents they didn't know much about the problem, but they had a lot of people working on it.
A watershed Deputy Commissioner was the highest ranking official present, so 11Alive News went to him for answers.
"You've been asking when, I can guarantee you a year, you will have a root cause of what exactly is going on," Reginald Wells said.
"So it won't be fixed, you'll just find out what the problem is?" 11Alive's DeMarco Morgan asked.
"We'll have a fix, a root cause, and a path forward. Because that could include changing a number of things to the community."
All week long, members of the larger metro Atlanta community have voiced their anger and frustration over the problem in Peoplestown with our online petitions. Monday afternoon, we delivered those petitions to Mayor Reed.
"These are people who want something done," 11Alive's Duffie Dixon said, handing the petitions to the mayor. "We've solicited these and more are coming in, and we're going to give these to you whenever we get them."
"I want to thank you for your coverage because it's helped us focus on it," Reed said, flipping through the pages in Peoplestown. "It's helped draw attention that was needed, and it's one of the reasons that I'm here. But we've been working on it, we've gotta do more. So I want every single one of these complaints. I'll be able to read them, and then I'm going to come back and meet with the people that have been affected."