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Tennessee River #4 on the ‘Most Endangered Rivers’ List

On April 14, 2004, American Rivers, a leading environmental organization dedicated to protecting and restoring our nation’s rivers, announced that the Tennessee River would be listed fourth in the ‘Most Endangered Rivers’ report for sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) and sewage blending. The report is designed to highlight rivers with uncertain futures.

Sewage system infrastructure has not been maintained as the population along the Tennessee River grows, resulting in the discharge of millions of gallons of raw or partially treated sewage into the river each year. Most sewage spills occur when it rains – stormwater rushing into the sewer pushes excrement out before treatment is complete. SSO’s are most pronounced in the Knoxville area, where the Knoxville Utility Board (KUB) has violated Clean Water Act regulations some 1,000 times, dumping more than 1 billion gallons of raw or partially treated sewage into Knoxville ’s rivers and streams.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that exposure to sewage-laced water makes as many as 3.5 million Americans sick every year. Pathogens found in sewage cause minor gastrointestinal sickness and respiratory infections, as well as life threatening illnesses like hepatitis and dysentery.


TCWN is working to engage utilities to ensure proper maintenance of sewage treatment facilities and systems. After failed attempts to encourage KUB to clean up its act, TCWN filed suit against the utility for violating their National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits. In January 2004, the United States Department of Justice, the EPA, and the state of Tennessee joined the lawsuit. Our goal is a resolution that protects human health and the integrity of our water resources.




Tennessee Clean Water Network | 706 Walnut St. | Knoxville, TN 37902 | Office: 865-522-7007 | Fax: 865-329-2422

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