NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Issues with aging infrastructure, pollution from sewer overflows and budget struggles are all to blame for the required sewer and water rate increase in Nashville.
According to a spokesperson for Metro Water, the decades old sewer system and water lines from as old as the early 1800s are in need of repair or replacement.
"The fact that Nashville has not raised rates in nine years, and before that 13 years means that our rates have no kept up with our maintenance needs here at the department," said Sonia Allman. "With appropriate funding we feel like we can accomplish the work we need to in nine years."
The work involves tunneling into Nashville's bedrock, drilling tunnels to handle sewage overflow that's currently sending untreated wastewater into area creeks and rivers.
"Investment in that system is important," said Allman.
The issue received attention from the federal government in 2009. The EPA requires the city to invest $1.5 billion in infrastructure upgrades. They've got nine more years to update the system.
"Because of the magnitude of that problem, it takes a long time to fix it," said Ron Taylor, program director for Clean Water Nashville.
Taylor said the city is working on a plan to address issues of contamination in Mill Creek. It could take five years, but would divert sewage overflows into a tunnel 100 feet underground. It would travel to a sewage treatment plant miles away.
"We have as many as 10 projects going concurrently, we may have as little as two," said Taylor.
Water and sewer rate increases on the people who live in Nashville are coming. The state comptroller gave a mandate to the city to increase the rates, which would mean more money for metro water to address the infrastructure issues. It also would mean Metro Water would be able to support itself.
However, David Whiteside with the environmental group TN Riverkeeper said he wishes the city could find a way to make tourists and developers pay for the infrastructure improvements.
"They should not be allowing any new development if they can't manage the waste right now," said Whiteside.