City addresses sewer issues

In response to a story The Manchester Times story published July 22 about Tennessee Riverkeeper, Inc. filing a lawsuit under the Clean Water Act (CWA), against the City of Manchester for violations of the CWA and Manchester’s pollution discharge permit, Manchester Mayor Lonnie Norman, has addressed the issues. Tennessee Riverkeepers alleged the Manchester Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) has had 336 violations within the past five years and over 33,930,595 gallons of untreated sewage released into the environment.

Norman issued the following statement July 24:

“The City of Manchester has received a letter from Tennessee Riverkeeper, Inc. in March 2020 stating its intent to file suit against the City over violations with its NPDES permit (sewer discharge permit) with the State of Tennessee. To my knowledge, the City has not received notice that a suit has actually been filed. After receipt of the initial letter from Riverkeeper, the City submitted a response to Riverkeeper with the information that they requested along with its position that it is not in violation with the State permit. No additional response from Riverkeeper has been received to date.

Tennessee Riverkeeper sues City of Manchester for violations of the CWA and Manchester’s pollution discharge permit

The City of Manchester is required to adhere to the provisions of its NPDES permit with the State of Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). The City submits monthly reports to TDEC providing discharge data to the Duck River which includes any overflows from manholes due to large storm events as well as its usual discharge data from the municipal treatment plant that averages over 2 million gallons per day.

The City of Manchester, as with most every city in the state, does experience manhole overflows as a result of inflowing rainwater during large storm events. In these large events, rainwater enters the sewer system in ways that include broken sewer service line cleanouts at houses, old cracked service lines at houses, and in older city main lines within the City’s easements.

Alderman's response to Tennessee Riverkeepers filing suit against the city

The City has always adhered to the State requirements and reported all overflowing manhole events. While these overflows are considered sanitary sewer flow, it is mainly rainwater flowing in and out of manholes. The City has worked with TDEC continually over the last 25 years to meet the requirements of their NPDES permit and to address the inflow and infiltration of rain water (I&I).

The City sewer system has many older sections of lines which went for years with no upgrades. During the last 25 years, the City has worked with TDEC and outlined annual projects and plans to upgrade its system.

The planning with TDEC is done in five-year increments and the City commits to that agency to constructing the rehabilitation projects.

Since 1995, the City has had on-going repair projects in place, spent over $23,590,611 on 17 capital projects performed by private construction companies, and spent many additional dollars directly with MWSD forces on line repairs, replacements, smoke testing, dye testing, and flow metering to reduce the I&I.

The City currently has a $2.8 million rehabilitation project underway. Upon completion of this current project, the City will have completed a permit period with the State, and it will prepare another 5-year plan of projects to further upgrade its sewer system. Of the $23.5 million cost, the City has acquired over $6.5 million in state and federal grant funds and applied these funds to the cost of the rehabilitation program.

Over the last 25 years, the City has made progress in removing rainwater from its system and lowered its chronic overflowing manholes from approximately 20 manholes to 5 manholes. There are approximately 2,000 manholes in the system and hundreds of miles of lines. This rehabilitation effort never ends as new sewer lines are installed daily as growth of our City occurs and existing lines continue to age and deteriorate.

The City has never been complacent in reporting sewer discharges to the Duck River and it has taken a very active role in trying to protect the Duck River. Staff of the Manchester Water & Sewer Department are active members in the Duck River Agency which serves to protect the Duck River system and ensure its use for drinking water for the residents in Middle Tennessee.

While these sewer rehabilitation projects are costly and have a direct impact on the sewer rates for the residents of Manchester, the City has worked hard to reduce operating costs year after year in an effort to minimize rate increases in sewer bills.

For over 25 years, the sewer rates the citizens pay have been held to a reasonable rate, and the City of Manchester will continue to maintain the balance between reasonable sewer rates and the costly but necessary capital rehabilitation projects.

With the awareness that this article has raised over the need to protect the Duck River, the City takes the opportunity to ask all citizens of Manchester to do their part in helping reduce rain water discharge into the sewer system by checking their own private sewer lines in their yards.

Please replace broken or missing cleanout caps, replace sewer service lines when problems are experienced with those private lines, and report any open sewer manholes whether they are on your property or on public locations. Never place any objects into your sewer cleanouts or city manholes as rocks, sticks, and construction debris are a large source of sewer line blockages and the cause of overflows.

Please report any misuse, abuse, or overflows to the Manchester Water and Sewer Department at (931) 728-1273.”