Demolition begins at Gatlinburg Wastewater Treatment Plant

Demolition begins at Gatlinburg Wastewater Treatment Plant

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Contractors have 45 days to complete the demolition work. Contractors have 45 days to complete the demolition work.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

GATLINBURG (WATE) - Demolition began Monday on the Gatlinburg Wastewater Treatment Plant. A portion of it collapsed in April 2011, killing two and sending more than 1 million gallons of sewage into the Little Pigeon River.

Bob Barnes is co-owner of J & B Market, a convenience store that sells gas, food and fishing licenses in Pigeon Forge.

He says at first, the sewage spill impacted sales. "Initially it hurt. People were thinking that they'd go fish and there'd be raw sewage in the river, and it was probably on its way to the ocean by then," Barnes said.

He says at first, people would ask about other areas to fish.

However, when summer arrived, Barnes says sales returned to normal. "I think people took a wait and see approach and by the time that tourism really hit, there wasn't any reason to be concerned, or not as much."

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation determined that there was no long-term environmental impact.

But a fisherman who doesn't want to be identified for fear of upsetting others in the community says he still won't fish in the area near the spill.

"That was a lot of sewage that spilled in the river and no matter how hard they try, there's no way they got every single bit of it. I'm not going to be eating the fish if they're going to be eating the sewage, you know?" he said.

The Tennessee Occupational Safety & Health Agency released a report in October saying a construction deficiency caused the collapse.

Contractors have 45 days to complete the demolition work. Gatlinburg Utility Department Manager Dale Phelps says insurance will pay the $96,100 demolition cost and by mid-spring, construction may start on rebuilding the equalization basin.

It's progress Barnes says may be good for business. "The guys that are going to be up there and do that work, they may come in here and eat hotdogs and that's going to affect my business in a positive way," he said.

Phelps says right now, they're in the design process of re-constructing the new equalization basin.

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