After the lawsuit-triggering failure of a 300,000-gallon stormwater recycling system, Sandy Springs is paying for the water that flows out of decorative fountains and irrigates greenery at City Springs. The city won’t say how much it has paid or for exactly how long, but bills show City Hall’s water usage and charges have skyrocketed over the last 10 months, totaling about $115,000 for 11.5 million gallons.
The system was intended to use recycled water for the fountains and the irrigation at the art and civic complex, which opened in 2018, to cut spending and water usage. The failure has the city plugging into the public water system, which is operated by the city of Atlanta. All but one fountain may soon be shut off or put in limited use for the season, said city spokesperson Sharon Kraun.
“It is just like a faucet at your house,” Kraun said of City Springs’ current use of city water. “You turn the knob and city water is pumped through.”
The recycling system is based on a cistern, an underground tank built beneath the City Green, the park outside City Springs. It is meant to capture and hold stormwater, which is then to be divided into two chambers with “dirty” water used for irrigation and “clean” water used for the fountains.
The system has three parts that the city said were not working correctly: a floor that should waterproof the system; a wall that should separate the “clean” and “dirty” water; and pumps that should bring water out of the cistern and feed into the fountains and irrigation. The city says those features were not built correctly from the start, but officials will not say exactly when they realized the problems and had to start using city water. Part of the reason city officials say they declined to provide full answers is the active litigation in which Holder, the construction company that built City Springs, filed a lawsuit against the city and the city filed a countersuit claiming issues with the cistern.
According to Kraun, a pump repair has been completed, and the pumps are working for both the irrigation and fountains. But the system still requires city water and officials cannot fill the cistern to capacity because of the remaining issues, Kraun said.
The city said the cost of buying water cannot be estimated until the repairs on the cistern are complete and that there is not a timeline for the repairs.
The city did not answer questions about the hours during which the fountains operate and why they have not been shut off during the cistern repairs. The Reporter has seen the fountains running as late as 11 p.m. Kraun said the fountains will soon be shut down or run only during the day for the season, with the exception of a cascading fountain facing Roswell Road.
The other fountains include a curved fountain just outside the City Green; a round fountain between the City Hall and Byers Theatre areas; and a round fountain in front of restaurants and stores on Blue Stone Road.
The city did not say when it started buying water from Atlanta. City water bills for the year to date indicate a large spike in June for City Springs water at $27,137.69, or 2,718,232 gallons. That is nearly double May’s bill of $14,386.40 or 1,441,396 gallons.
Since December 2018, the city has spent $114,804 on 11,504,240 gallons of water for City Springs. But it is not clear from bill records how much of that water was used on the fountains or for irrigation.
Sandy Springs is also currently in a legal battle with the city of Atlanta about the local water system, which Atlanta operates. The crux of the dispute is Sandy Springs claiming Atlanta overcharges for water.
Sandy Springs City Hall water bills and usage
The following information is the total charges and usage reported on Atlanta Department of Watershed Management bills for Sandy Springs City Hall, which is at City Springs. The bills were obtained from the city in response to a request for billing records related to the buying of water for use at City Springs.
–John Ruch contributed