Flooding damages two West Knoxville wastewater facilities

Local News

East Tennessee is still reeling from flooding late last month. Signs of damage are all around as is standing water in some places. Now we’re getting a first look at infrastructure that went under when the water rose.

Two wastewater facilities, run by First Utility District of Knox County, were damaged in the flooding: their Ebeneezer pumping facility and their Ten Mile pumping facility. Ahead of the flooding, FUD crews shifted wastewater flow and got biological processes at their treatment plant in order as a way to be prepared.

There was a constant hum Monday as technicians continued to assess damage at both wastewater facilities.

“Up until last Thursday we weren’t even able to access the location because of the flooding,” said Brad Brummett, operations manager for FUD.

There are roughly 35,000 connections and 90,000 people who rely on FUD. Their district essentially runs from Gallaher View Road to the Loudon County line, to the lake and across the interstate.

“We have got seven big pumps unde ground here. We’re not sure what kind of condition they’re in. We’re sure that all the electrical controls, which they’re working on, have got significant damage. The instrumentation control has got significant damage and we’ll see from there,” added Bruce Giles, general manager for FUD.

Both the Ebeneezer and Ten Mile pumping stations are using mobile by-pass units to pump wastewater to their treatment facility. Crews are also stationed there 24 hours a day monitoring the system.

“There shouldn’t be any affect on the ratepayers,” said Giles.

FUD estimates, at minimum, $1.5 million in repairs. An emergency plan is being developed with funds set aside and we’re told restoration costs will likely not impact customer rates.

“We anticipate at least 12 weeks of operation because getting parts and pieces and getting folks to work, so it’ll do its job in the meantime,” said Giles.

A small amount of sewage leaked in the flood, though it was primarily stormwater that overwhelmed the facilities.

“From a drinking water perspective, it’s completely safe. I mean there’s not been any concern from the get-go with that just because of the types of processes that we go through to make sure that drinking water’s safe,” added Giles.

As a backup, FUD has four more mobile by-pass units just in case one breaks.

“It’s pretty devastating. It gets to a point where you’re kind of at a loss,” said Brummett.

We checked with TDEC and we’re told they’ve been in constant contact with FUD since the flood when it comes to recovery requirements. TDEC adding the drinking water plant has been doing additional sampling of raw and finished water for elevated levels of bacteria. Drinking water has not been impacted and so far TDEC adds results have remained within treatable limits.

Knoxville Utilities Board says it has no concerns about water quality, but it is important to know that flooding would have affected the wastewater facilities, not water treatment operations.

KUB says none of its budlings were damaged but damage was done to some wastewater pumping equipment in those facilties. Repairs are undrway and KUB says it designs its equpimet to face most scenarios, the recent downpours a test of the system.

So far, KUB counts more than $300,000 in damage, that number expected to go up with more repair and clean up costs. Also to note, you may see more KUB staff out inspecting the system as flood waters recede.

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