“Frustrated” over water

Monday, March 25, 2019

Marshall County got the number they were waiting for last week, but it wasn’t the one they wanted.

A delegation of elected officials and representatives of the water utilities traveled to Nashville on Thursday to meet with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation about how much water Lewisburg Water and Waste Water is allowed to take out of the Duck River daily.

The county was hoping that TDEC would allow six million gallons per day, the capacity of the city’s water intake in the river, but TDEC said that four million gallons, the amount that the water treatment plant in Lewisburg can process daily, would be the utility’s cap.

“We’re disappointed and frustrated,” said Marshall County Mayor Mike Keny. “We went there hoping for that extra two million gallons.”

The county, which is seeing its water resources stretched to the breaking point by growth, was counting on the six million gallon number, in order to proceed with a possible, short-term solution.

If the extra water was available, the county’s three water utilities; Lewisburg, the Marshall County Public Utilities, and Chapel Hill Water, were planning to build an additional two million gallon per day treatment plant on the Duck River to supply water to the northern half of the county.

That solution would allow them to avoid the long permitting process for water withdrawals, if Lewisburg already had that amount permitted.

When Lewisburg connected to the Duck for water in 1944 there was no permitting process that set a daily limit and since then no one in Marshall County was aware that such a number had ever been set by the state.

The Duck River Agency had some paperwork suggesting that the number could be six million gallons per day, matching the intake capacity.

Some involved with the process, who wanted to remain unnamed for fear of antagonizing TDEC, felt that the department’s decision was arbitrary and without any factual basis.

Despite the setback, the utilities are already seeking other alternatives for additional water supply, which could slow, if not halt, growth in the county if sufficient water cannot be provided.

“I’m encouraged by everybody coming to the table and understanding that the problem effects us all,” said Keny.

In a meeting Tuesday morning, the Public Utilities board agreed to begin the process of applying for a permit themselves, possibly using Rock Creek as a source, and studying the potential for drilling for underground supplies, avoiding the process required to tap into the river.

Commissioner Mickey King, who serves on the board, said that the state agreed that the county had shown a need for additional water and had been diligent about working through each possible solution.

“We have gone above and beyond what we should have before we came to them asking for a tap into the Duck,” said Public Utilities Director Tommy Whaley.

Lewisburg Water will also pursue a permit adding the additional two million gallons to their withdrawal allowance as well.

The issue with permitting is the time involved in the process and if the county has enough water to supply residents until it is complete.

Despite the frustration, “We’ll just have to work our hardest to get the result we need,” said Keny.