Environmental group sues Clarksville for sewage overflows

Posted at 11:03 AM, Jan 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-27 23:47:37-05

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee Riverkeeper, Inc. has filed a lawsuit against Clarksville, saying the city dumped millions of gallons of sewage into the Cumberland River.

The non-profit organization said Monday that the suit was filed under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and accused Clarksville of violating the CWA and the Tennessee Water Quality Control Act. Tennessee Riverkeeper said back in November that they intended on filing the lawsuit.

According to a release, the Clarksville Sewage Treatment Plant has had 498 total overflow violations – releasing an estimated 82,533,061- plus gallons of sewage into the river since November 27, 2014.

“Sewage is one of the biggest pollution threats to the Cumberland River. Tennessee Riverkeeper is seeking to reduce sewage pollution in the Cumberland Valley, addressing Clarksville’s issues would go a long way in cleaning up our river,” said David Whiteside, founder of Tennessee Riverkeeper.

Whiteside says Tennessee Riverkeeper learned of the possible violations by reviewing files from the Tennesee Department of Environment and Conservation. The city of Clarksville is required to report violations.

"The city of Clarksville has admitted to these violations," said Whiteside. "There is no disputing the numbers, or the fact that these crimes occurred."

Whiteside says Clarksville has six chronic overflow points – meaning five or more overflows occur at the same location in a year – including these lift station locations: New Meadowbrook, Oak Street, Ringgold Road, Savannah, Sherwood Forest, and Trice Landing.

“When raw sewage is discharged into surface water it carries with it bacteria and pathogens that can be a threat to public health,” said Whiteside.

The same group has also threatened to sue the City of Nashville and Metro Water for violating the Clean Water Act. Whiteside later released the following statement: "Tennessee Riverkeeper has temporarily held off the lawsuit and the organization's intent to sue Metro Water while the legal team assesses the adequacy and efficiency of the consent decree from that case as well as Nashville's compliance with it."

The city of Clarksville reacted to the allegations with a statement saying in part: "The City has a strong working relationship with TDEC and strives to comply with the agency’s rules, regulations and standards." The statement also said: "The City contends it is aggressively engaged in improving its entire wastewater system, and has spent more than $130 million since 2010 in construction and upgrades."