Pressure on Lewisburg was released this month when state environmentalists gave the city two more years to complete a $13 million project; and backed off an absolute sewer tap moratorium thereby making a proposed apartment complex possible.
A "very productive" meeting at the Columbia Field Office of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation also clarified two letters: One from a TDEC engineer; the other from a TDEC lawyer - both saying the opposite thing to Lewisburg leaders and their engineer.
"It's like the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing," Lewisburg Water and Wastewater Department Superintendent Kenneth Carr said last week while discussing the letters from Nashville that were clarified in Columbia.
Still, it was a step forward for Bill Marsh and Eddie Wiles of First Commerce Bank who told the utility board they have a potential buyer for land near the Exxon On the Run store where apartments for senior citizens might be built if they have sewer service. The capacity of Lewisburg's sewage treatment plant is limited, but the system was closely examined and TDEC Municipal Facilities Section Manager Philip Simmons told the city's consulting engineer, Greg Davenport, that 220 new taps could be sold.
Carr was amazed when he received Simmons' letter, dated Feb. 3, and a Feb. 3 letter from TDEC Environmental Legal Counsel Robert Cox saying, "We do not agree" to the city request to amend the sewer moratorium. Cox did, however, say if the city demonstrated it has the capacity for more taps, the department could consider the request. The lawyer's letter also indicated refusal on other requests.
Meanwhile, Lewisburg's on-going debate over sewer fees has new information to discuss, as a Dec. 31 deadline for expansion of the city's sewage treatment plant has been reset to Dec. 31, 2013, according to Carr who released the letters on Thursday when the utility board met in its offices on Water Street.
The $13 million project includes a 10-million-gallon raw-sewage holding tank to delay immediate treatment of sewage diluted by rain that's seeped into sewers. The tank to be built on part of the old Murray horse farm will be about 36 feet high from the ground level, 259 feet in diameter and 815 feet in circumference.
Currently, a swirl system approved decades ago by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency removes solids before the watery flow is released with only moderate treatment to a tributary of Rock Creek.
The swirl was used 10 times last month, Carr told the utility board. That substantiates expansion requirements that improves treatment of sewage.
"We don't want it to back up into people's houses," he said.
Before it gets that drastic, people using the jogging path parallel to the sewer line have noticed overflows from a manhole.