As DeKalb County gears up for its billion-dollar water and sewer capital improvement project, its director of watershed management is resigning to go into the private sector.
Dr. Francis T. Kung’u, director of the watershed management department since 2007, tendered his letter of resignation on Feb. 18. His last day will be March 11.
Kung’u said he has been privileged to serve DeKalb County on the front lines of human health protection.
“What I have been doing has a lot of impact for a time,” said Kung’u, who is planning to set up his own engineering firm in the Atlanta area. “As important as roads are, water is more important,” Kung’u said. “Water is life.”
Eventually, he would like to have an office in DeKalb County. Kung’u said he is not starting his firm to get some of the county’s watershed improvement dollars.
“My biggest motivation is creating jobs,” Kung’u said. “I have an entrepreneurial attitude.”
As the head of a department with approximately 700 employees, Kung’u oversees the water and sewer system, which serves more than 730,000 people and 20,000 businesses, and has about 5,200 miles of water and sewer lines, one treatment facility for drinking water and two for waste water.
Under his leadership, the watershed department convinced the county’s board of commissioners in December to approve $1.345 billion in improvements to DeKalb’s water and sewer system. The improvements will be financed by an 11-percent rate hike each year for three years beginning in 2012.
Kung’u was at the helm for another rate increase in 2008.
“I did not believe the water and sewer rates in DeKalb County when I came here were sustainable,” Kung’u said.
In December, the county agreed to pay a $453,000 penalty from the EPA for excessive sewage spills. DeKalb County agreed to implement a $600,000 stream cleanup project, focusing on debris removal from parts of the South River, South Fork Peachtree Creek and Snapfinger Creek.
During his tenure, Kung’u initiated a tiered, conservation rate structure for water usage; pushed the construction of the Scott Candler water treatment plant, which was behind schedule when he took the job; and oversaw the design of the Polebridge water treatment facility.
Kung’u led the county in water conservation measures such as the implementation of an ordinance mandating the replacement of inefficient plumbing fixtures; and a rebate program for the replacement of toilets purchased before 1993.
Before being hired by DeKalb County, Kung’u worked as a consulting engineer. Some of his roles included project manager for Atlanta’s greenways project; project manager for the Atlanta’s combined sewer separation project; technical director for the Fulton County Nancy Creek stormwater management plan; and project engineer for the Jefferson County sanitary sewer rehabilitation project in Alabama.
Kung’u has a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Nairobi, Kenya, and a master’s degree in environmental engineering and a doctoral degree in civil engineering, both from the University of Alabama.
Kung’u said he is leaving the county’s watershed department in good shape.
“The department is well-positioned to implement its capital improvement project and consent agreement and to continue providing the customer with safe drinking water,” Kung’u said.