Knoxville Must Spend Half A Billion For Clean Water Violations
Aging sewers in the city of Knoxville, Tennessee have been overflowing during storms, causing the city to violate its Clean Water Act permits. To settle these violations, the Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) has agreed to a civil penalty of $334,000 and remedial as well as preventive action worth about $532 million.
A consent decree filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee in Knoxville represents the combined efforts of the United States and the state of Tennessee as well as the Tennessee Clean Water Network and the City of Knoxville, which have also entered into this settlement as plaintiffs.
With the goal of eliminating sewage overflows and maintaining compliance with its Clean Water Act permits, the consent decree will require KUB to continuously analyze the causes of overflows and propose specific corrective action plans to abate the causes.
The KUB must implement management, operation and maintenance programs to prevent future overflows; ensure that the sewer system has adequate capacity before allowing new connections to add flow; comprehensively review the performance of its treatment plants; respond to overflows when they occur, including cleaning up building backups; and institute a comprehensive water quality monitoring program.
All this work is estimated to cost about $530 million and is expected to eliminate approximately 3.5 million gallons of sewage overflows annually.
The consent decree also requires KUB to pay a civil penalty which will be split between the United States and Tennessee. The United States and the state will each receive $167,000 for a total penalty of $334,000.
The state penalty will be paid in the form of an environmental project to provide funds for the acquisition of real property interests in the Williams Creek watershed. The purpose of this state environmental project is to protect, restore and enhance water quality, wetlands areas and riparian areas within the Williams Creek watershed and to prevent any use of these properties that will impair or interfere with the restoration and preservation of the property to its natural condition.
KUB also will perform a $2 million Supplemental Environmental Project by providing funding to moderate, low and very low income level residential property owners to repair their privately owned sewer pipes that connect into KUB’s sewer system. These privately owned sewer pipes may have defects that allow excessive inflow of rain water into KUB’s sewer system and contribute to sewage overflows.
Repairs will bring defective privately owned sewer pipes into compliance with the current plumbing code and decrease rain water inflow into KUB’s sewer system.
The proposed consent decree with KUB is subject to a public comment period and final court approval before becoming effective.
“The environment is far better protected and the public is far better served when cooperative effort and agreement prevail. All the parties are to be commended for the work they did to resolve this controversy in a positive manner,” said Betsy Child, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Provided by the Environmental News Service.