Sandy Springs wants to avoid the water crisis with its Atlanta-operated system

Atlanta Department of Watershed Management crews worked on June 18, 2023 to repair a broken valve that was cutting off water service to Sandy Springs and putting it under a boil water advisory. (Jody Reichel/ATL Watershed)

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul said he wants a judge to rule on the city’s lawsuit over an agreement with Atlanta over the water system to avoid the kind of crisis that happened over the weekend.

Sandy Springs gets its water from a water system owned and operated by Atlanta. For decades, Sandy Springs tried to resolve the dispute with Atlanta and eventually filed lawsuits to force an intergovernmental agreement on water service and rates.

According to City Attorney Dan Lee, Atlanta has operated the water system in Sandy Springs without a formal agreement since the city was incorporated in 2005.

A hearing before the judge is scheduled for July, Paul said. Atlanta changed lawyers again, which the mayor attributed to more delaying tactics.

“Let’s fix this so we can prevent something catastrophic from happening in Sandy Springs,” Paul said. “It’s already happened twice since we became a city.”

Paul was referring to June 2023, when Sandy Springs was without water for 24 hours after a gate valve burst on the main line that supplies the city with water from Johns Creek. The Atlanta Department of Watershed Management had to send divers into the Chattahoochee River to repair the valve.

Sandy Springs funded a $400,000 study by Hartman and Associates that showed repairs and upgrades to the water treatment plant needed within city limits would cost $80 million, a figure several years old.

“I know everyone is upset with the city of Atlanta because of the water situation. We’d like to try to do things to prevent things like that from happening here,” Paul said. “Unfortunately, pending the court’s decision, we are powerless to do anything about it.”

Paul claimed the city of Atlanta was lying to its bondholders after committing to making repairs to the system in bond documents.