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Tennessee Clean
Water Network

706 Walnut St.
Knoxville, TN 37902

Office: 865-522-7007
Fax: 865-329-2422

TCWN Settles with KUB over Sanitary Sewer Overflows

In July 2003, the TCWN filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the KUB for sanitary sewer overflows and sewage blending. Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs) occur most often during rainy weather when poorly maintained sewer lines are inundated with rainwater. This inundation increases pressure in the pipes and causes the manholes to pop up and release a mixture of raw sewage and rainwater. This mixture drains into streets and waterways making it both a human and ecological health hazard.

From 2000 to 2003, KUB violated Clean Water Act sewage regulations some 1,000 times, dumping more than 1 billion gallons of raw or partially treated sewage into the river and streams in Knoxville – ENOUGH TO FILL NEYLAND STADIUM 16 TIMES!!

On September 26, 2003, TCWN filed a lawsuit against KUB in the Federal District Court in Knoxville. Later in November, the City of Knoxville sought to intervene. In December 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency acting through the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation entered into discussions with TCWN, City of Knoxville and KUB and announced their intent to file a lawsuit and join the TCWN lawsuit. Subsequently, a series of negotiations throughout 2004 culminated in a settlement filed today in a Consent Decree that will require the KUB to rehabilitate the sewer lines, improve management procedures and eliminate SSOs over the next ten years.

In lieu of going to court all parties agreed to negotiate a Consent Decree to resolve all of our issues. Negotiations began in February 2003 and commenced in November 2003 with all parties signing on to the provisions of the Consent Decree.

As part of the negotiations, the KUB agreed to offset their civil penalties by participating in two Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs). The first SEP is a lateral program to reduce SSOs by repairing residential lateral and removing illicit connections to the sewer system. This program is designed specifically for low-income residents in neighborhoods that were adversely affected by SSOs. The KUB committed $2,000,000 towards this program. The goals of this program are to:

  • Repair or replace defective residential private laterals and remove illicit connections from residential properties,
  • Bring aged defective private laterals into compliance with current plumbing codes,
  • Reduce the inflow and infiltration to the wastewater collection and treatment system,
  • Reduce SSO’s
  • Decrease wet-weather flow to the wastewater treatment plants and
  • Provide financial assistance to eligible residential property owners to repair or replace private laterals and remove illicit connection.

The second SEP is a State SEP to acquire and restore the urban forest in the William’s Creek watershed. The KUB committed $167,000 toward this project. The goals of this project are to:

  • Acquire the adjacent available properties in and around Williams Creek
  • Perform stormwater retrofits in three places to reduce sediment and contain flows during big storms,
  • Reduce invasive species in the watershed.

To read more about KUB’s plan to eliminate SSO's in 10 years, visit their PACE 10 website.