Sunday, September 09, 2012

September 9, 2012 (Another) Morristown Sewage Spill into Cherokee Lake

The City of Morristown dumped raw, untreated sewage into Cherokee Lake on Monday (Sept 3) after a power outage at its wastewater treatment plant.[Correction: The outage this time was at the Spring Creek lift station this time.] About 94,000 gallons of raw sewage went into the lake.  [Last year, the outage was at the main plant and resulted in a dump of over one million gallons of raw sewage into Cherokee Lake. See below for links].

With the life station, there are two power feeds. However, both power sources (MUS-Morristown Utilities and AEC-Appalachian Electric) come into the lift station on the same poles for at least part of the way. When there is a wreck or storm or falling tree that hits a shared pole, both utilities are affected and there is no back-up power. Sewage backs up and is then released into the lake.

Monday's power outage is not the first power outage in the city sewer system. And Monday's raw sewage dump is not the first--or even largest--sewage dump by the City of Morristown into Cherokee Lake.

A massive spill of over a million gallons of untreated sewage into the lake occurred in June 2011. That spill was also caused by a power outage--but in 2011 it was at the main wastewater treatment plant. As with the life station, power to the main treatment plant comes from two sources (MUC and AEC), poles are shared, and in the case of a storm or wreck or other event, both utilities are affected and there is no back-up power at the main plant. Click here. At that time, City Administrator Tony Cox said of the power outage and sewage dump, "we're taking it seriously." There was also a spill of about 250,000 gallons of raw sewage in 2008. Click here.

[And then there was the Witt sewer lawsuit that cost the city megabucks in attorney fees (for part of its own TML attorneys' fees plus a negotiated payment to Plaintiff's attorney for his fees) and the City ended up under a federal court order to spend over a million dollars to fix the Witt situation and address repeated overflows. Click here and on the Witt Sewer search labels on the right.]

Under the headline "E. Coli levels off the chart at spill site," the Tribune reports that "concentrations of the bacteria (E. Coli), which has been linked to disease, remained so high (as of Tuesday) that they exceeded the ability of Veolia measure them." Veolia operates Morristown's wastewater treatment facility.

Knowing about the problem for quite some time, the City has been talking about back up generators.

The City Administrator sent a plan for generators to TDEC (Tennessee Dept of Environment and Conservation) months ago.

Apparently it's not economically possible to separate the two power feeds or address the problem in other ways. This latest spill makes the case for generators NOW! 

Morristown and other area communities rely on Cherokee Lake for tourism and recreational activities like swimming, boating, and fishing, and, most importantly, as a source of drinking water.

The repeated dumping of raw sewage into the lake from which the City gets its drinking water is ridiculous--especially when the problem has been known for YEARS and there is a way to prevent it from happening. 

Hospitals have back-up generators that can be used to make sure that vital health services are maintained for patients in the event of a utility power outage.

Four-plus years is long enough for the City of Morristown, which handles the city's sewer, to address its repeated raw sewage dumps--whether from lift stations or the main wastewater plant.

And MUS, which handles the city's water, should be highly concerned about the City dumping sewage into the lake from which MUS pulls water for treatment and sale to its customers. [According to the MUS website, MUS gets water from two sources. Water comes from Cherokee Lake and Havely Springs and is then mixed together before being treated. Click here]

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