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Atlanta Installs Permeable Pavement in Flood-Prone Neighborhoods

These Atlanta neighborhoods stand to gain in the long term from the city's new permeable pavement system and water retention park. But the project has displaced some residents.
December 4, 2016, 5am PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Mike Boucher

Caught at the confluence of combined sewers and stormwater drains, the Atlanta neighborhoods of Peoplestown, Summerhill, and Mechanicsville are undergoing a transformation from impervious to permeable surfaces.

Jen Kinney writes, "The three neighborhoods, largely covered in impervious surface and located in a basin that serves as the natural drainage point for the entire 1,500-mile watershed, have proven highly susceptible to flooding in major rain events."

To fix the problem, the city has embarked on an ambitious project. "With recognition that water would always flow to [one particular point], that system uses a variety of tools, including stormwater ponds and the largest permeable paver project in the U.S. — maybe the world. It's also displacing nearly all of the residents of that highly affected block. The city has acquired all but one of the 29 houses, and is turning the entire block into a water retention park." Stormwater will be separated from untreated waste.

Displaced residents aren't happy though. One of them put it like this: "It's not an amenity if you're being displaced."

"The centerpiece of the project, begun shortly after the flooding and just completed this fall, is nearly 5 miles of streets paved with permeable surface. Spread out between the three neighborhoods, these brick-lined streets allow water to filter down into the earth without passing through the sewer system." 

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Published on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 in Next City
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