ATLANTA - Testing underground is underway this week as the city of Atlanta prepares to build a massive tunnel to boost its emergency water supply from 3 days to 30 days.
The two-year project will transform the Bellwood Quarry on Atlanta's Westside, where scenes from "The Walking Dead," "Hunger Games" and "The Fast and Furious" were shot.
“By filling up the quarry, we remove our city from the risk of losing our water supply,” said Lillian Govus, Director of Communications for the Atlanta Department of Watershed Management.
The plan was hatched after the Atlanta area's last major drought in 2008, when the state imposed emergency watering restrictions.
The municipal option sales tax approved in March will help cover the $280-$300 million price tag.
“We expect this to help us for the next century,” Govus added.
Along with drought protection, the new quarry is a designed as a safe backup if the city’s regular water supply is contaminated for any reason.
Construction on the new tunnel will start in September after crews construct a 450-foot tunnel boring machine, using 70 truckloads of parts that will be transported to Atlanta in June.
The five-mile tunnel will go from the Chattahoochee River to Bellwood, a hidden, century-old quarry that holds only rainwater now.
Once the tunnel is completed by the end of 2018, it will send 2.4 billion gallons of water to the quarry. That's enough to supply the city for 30 days.
The current reserve will last the city only three days, Govus said.
“We won’t take any more than our allotted daily draw," Govus said. "As it is now, we don’t use the entire draw that we’re permitted by the EPD, so we’ll take the extra and we’ll save it.”
The water won't be treated before its stored, but the tunnel will connect to the Hemphill Water Treatment Plant.
After the quarry project is completed, the city and the Atlanta Beltline plan to build a massive park in the area. It will be larger than Piedmont Park.