NASHVILLE, Tenn.- It's an environmental mess that Metro must repair. Every year, millions of gallons of raw sewage flow into rivers, streams and creeks in Davidson County. The federal government has demanded action.
Last week, Mayor Karl Dean proposed a rate increase to help improve Metro's aging sewer system. The mess could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
Joe Davis is 90 years old and he's owned his home more than 30 years. Davis has seen a lot of things change, but he says one thing that hasn't changed is the problem with the sewer line in his back yard.
"That's the manhole that has exploded so many times," he said while pointing the spot out to NewsChannel 5's camera.
Heavy rains literally blow the top off that manhole and allow raw sewage to spill into Mill Creek and Joe Davis's yard.
"The raw sewage just gushes out up high and of course it runs into Mill Creek," said Davis.
Metro documents show sewage spilled from the location for 59 hours in December and 53 hours in April. That's more than two straight days each time.
Metro is required to report all sewage overflows to the state each month, and you may be surprised how often raw sewage spills out of Metro's sewage system. More than 30 locations reported sewage overflows in December due to heavy rain.
That includes 22 hours at the Smith Springs pumping station, more than 50 hours at the Whites Creek pumping station, and the list goes on and on.
"We have some serious environmental concerns and have to deal with that," said Mayor Carl Dean.
It's a primary reason Mayor Karl Dean is asking for a water and sewer rate increase. The EPA has demanded that Metro reduce sewage overflows.
"If I didn't have to do this I wouldn't be here today asking for a rate increase," said Dean.
It's not just a Nashville problem, there is an area in Gallatin that regularly reports sewage overflows after heavy rains. Gallatin blames an old pumping station, but it's located in a residential area.
"It doesn't happen that often and then when it does most of the time a lot rain dilutes it, so I don't see that as a big problem with the public; however, it's our goal to try and stop it all," said David Gregory, Gallatin Public Utilities.
State records show that location reported a sewage overflow for 56 hours in April. The man who bought the property had no idea it was happening. Gallatin reported 10 locations in April where a combination of sewage and rainwater overflowed. The city is spending $27 million to upgrade its sewage treatment plant.
"We're probably over doubling the size of what we can treat," said Gregory.
But Nashville's problems are more severe and more expensive. Joe Davis hopes his children won't have to deal with the sewage problems he's dealt with.
"I would just like to get that situation fixed but I don't see what I would base my hopes on at all," said Joe Davis.
Metro has made some progress, but right now the city is in violation of the Federal Clean Water Act. So it really has no choice but to make repairs.
Under Metro's proposed rate increase, water and sewer bills would go up on average about four dollars this spring. There would be similar increases for the next two years. It's up to the council to approve the increase