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Information sought for appeal to state in stormwater case

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Lewisburg's attorney is gathering information to answer state questions to justify elimination of a $10,000 penalty since the city allegedly failed to document enforcement of rules to prevent stormwater erosion.

That's one of two cases City Attorney Bill Haywood explained Saturday. The other is Lewisburg's suit in Marshall County Circuit Court where it complains a Columbia business "improperly installed" a heating and cooling system at the recreation center.

A heating, ventilation and air conditioning system installed at the recreation center on the south side of Mooresville Highway cost about $140,000 and the city's spent about $75,000 to repair the system that heats swimming pool water as well as cools and heats the center, according to Jimmy Stitt, the city's aquatics director.

The owner of the company being sued by the city denies doing anything wrong.

The $10,000 environmental case was revealed in a June 23 notice from Paul Davis who leads the Water Pollution Control Division of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). Davis gave the city 30 days to request a hearing before the Water Quality Control Board. The city did and Haywood asked that the $10,000 penalty be reduced or eliminated. In response, the state's asked questions.

"TDEC charged us with not keeping proper records on the (stormwater) program," Haywood said.

Lewisburg stormwater program director Corey Pleas and his predecessor, R.L. Williams, have enforced regulations on silt fences, city officials claim. But Davis says there's been no "post construction stormwater management, nor is there documentation of steps to be sure the city is abiding by such environmental protections at its buildings."

Davis' order calls for a correction of deficiencies, production of a storm sewer system map and implementation of programs to comply with requirements.

"A lot of people don't understand that if they clear more than an acre of land, they need a permit and clearance from Corey Pleas," Haywood said. "We don't have proper records in line" with state requirements that enforce the Clean Water Act of 1972.

"We've filed a plan to correct that," the city attorney continued. TDEC's Water Quality Control Board "is now considering the reduction of, or waiver of, the $10,000 fine."

So far, the case has been considered on the record and Haywood hasn't had to argue the city's case directly to the Board during a meeting in Nashville.

"The stormwater program is fairly new," Haywood said. "We've spent a lot of money for this. We've hired a professional engineer based in Manchester to oversee this. We're probably ahead of the curve compared to most communities.

"It's a new program for the state, too."

St. John Engineering in Manchester has prepared plans to correct infractions of rules stemming from the Clean Water Act of 1972. It started with permits for sewage treatment plants. Controls to clean stormwater washing street and parking lots of petroleum products and carrying silt to rivers and streams didn't start until the 1990s.

Now, Haywood says, TDEC's panel is to decide whether Lewisburg made a good faith effort to comply.

"We say we have because we've spent money to send stormwater program directors to school," Haywood explained. "We spent money to send our previous stormwater program directors for training and with the turnover, it's been difficult to continue, but Corey is following up real well."

Haywood's defense of the city at a state administrative law panel is to prove good faith compliance and avoid a $10,000 fine that could grow to $35,000 if the city fails to respond in line with state regulations.

The other case, stemming from malfunctioning equipment at the Recreation Center, is an attempt to get a business to replace the equipment and pay costs incurred to deal with installation that was allegedly done wrong.

Sandrell Heating and Cooling of Columbia is the business sued by Lewisburg, Haywood said. The unit was installed at the aquatics center. The case filed early this month wants $137,000 from Sandrell.

Marvin Sandrell, proprietor of the heating and cooling business was asked for his reaction to the city's lawsuit.

"They better have their guns loaded," Sandrell said, denying all the allegations against his company.

He also said that he's had his lawyer sue Lewisburg over the conflict.

Stitt, the aquatics director, explained the DecTron machine that's malfunctioned is manufactured by a Canadian company.

"The machine dehumidifies, heats and cools the air and heats the lap pool's water," Stitt said.

"Installation went wrong," he said. "They didn't install it right. They didn't install the pipes properly. There are two things. When you put in a T (of pipes) you're supposed to put it down so it doesn't get an air lock. And there are two circuits to the system that run (two) 25-ton compressors. They only ran one circuit and that was one of the big ticket items. We had to replace a 25-ton compressor. The life-span of one of these units is supposed to be 20 years, but in four years' time, our unit has had 20 years life-span taken. This (information) is from a certified technician. I know we've already spent about $75,000 in repairs on a unit that cost $140,000, not including labor; installation costs.

"We want a new unit," Stitt said.

The case is to be decided by Chancellor J.B. Cox.