Memphis may boast some of the best drinking water in the country, but the city can’t say the same about its surrounding river water.
On Friday, February 5th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation jointly filed a federal lawsuit seeking damages under the federal Clean Water Act and the state Water Quality Control Act.
After a review of records from Memphis’ wastewater treatment and collection programs, the EPA deemed the city in violation of the Clean Water Act. From January 2005 to September 2009, the city's Maynard C. Stiles Waste Treatment Plant on North Second Street reported 1,170 overflows in which a total of 23 million gallons of raw sewage leaked into city streets, yards, and the Mississippi River and its tributaries. In addition, a sewage line broke in April 2008 and leaked 45 million more gallons of sewage over a 25-day period.
The city’s sanitary sewer system encompasses 3,600 miles of pipe, delivering an average of 150 million gallons of wastewater for treatment each day. The system dates back to the 1870s. Regarding the lawsuit, city attorney Herman Morris said: “In an effort to demonstrate our full cooperation with the EPA, our immediate and urgent steps lie with developing a consent decree to correct the concerns that are raised in the lawsuit.”
For more on the city’s wastewater problems, read Bianca Phillips’ earlier story.