KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The City of Knoxville has begun mapping and assessing 400 miles of stormwater pipes for the first time since the early ’90s. City officials say the survey will save taxpayer money by avoiding costly pipe breaks and emergency situations through proactive maintenance and replacements.
Around 25,000 stormwater system parts spanning 400 miles will be evaluated through the survey funded by $2.2 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. It is expected to be completed in May 2024.
According to a statement released by the city, crews have found clay pipes from the early 1900s. Some system parts, like gutters and culverts, have not previously been recorded.
By plotting a course for targeted maintenance and replacements, officials say the city will save money by avoiding expensive pipe failures, sinkholes and lengthy road closures.
“The mindset is to identify the pipes that are nearing the end of their useful life, and cost-effectively address the situation,” City Stormwater Engineering Chief David McGinley said. “The alternative is to spend many times that amount of taxpayer dollars when there’s an infrastructure failure. No one wants that. A failed pipe can mean flooding, sinkholes, possibly damage to roads and extended closures while they’re being repaired.”
The city is using federal, state and local funds to reduce a backlog of stormwater maintenance projects. Knoxville received a $20 million state grant last year for these efforts.
“It’s a lot of money, but there are many needs,” McGinley said. “We’re growing, with record amounts of new construction, and maintaining resiliency to weather requires modern infrastructure.”
Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon has proposed $800,000 in her 2023-2024 budget for stormwater system upgrades, $300,000 for emergency drain repairs and $500,000 for proactive drainage improvements.
“Put simply, it’s dramatically less expensive and much less disruptive to property owners when we make smart, proactive stormwater infrastructure investments, rather than reacting to an emergency situation when something breaks,” Kincannon said.