LCUB To State: More time Utility hopes to find funds to help finance mandated upgrade By ANDREW EDER

April 12, 2007 Officials with the Lenoir City Utilities Board were in Nashville Wednesday to ask the state for more time to comply with a mandated upgrade to an aging sewage treatment plant. Fred Nelson, LCUB's general manager, said the utility is requesting more time to find grant and other financing so the entire burden of the estimated $15 million new plant doesn't fall on ratepayers. He said a rate hike could be as much as 109 percent if not offset by other funds.

"We're trying to do anything to not raise those rates," Nelson said. The plant upgrades were part of an agreed order last July between LCUB and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's water pollution division. The settlement, which addressed sewer overflows and excessive pollutants released into the Tennessee River, established several benchmarks for revamping LCUB's wastewater system, including upgrading the treatment plant by Jan. 1, 2009. Saya Qualls, chief engineer for TDEC's Division of Water Pollution Control, said LCUB officials asked at the meeting Wednesday to extend that deadline to January 2011. She said the state has requested more information from LCUB, including a detailed schedule of activities. "We really can't make a call on this until we get that additional information," Qualls said.

LCUB is not alone in its difficulties as utilities across the state and country struggle with increasing strain on aging sewer lines and treatment plants. According to information from the state, LCUB is one of 14 utility districts in the area under a state order to improve their wastewater systems. Others include the city of Maryville, Hallsdale-Powell Utility District and Knoxville Utilities Board, which is in the midst of a 10-year, $530-million program to revamp its wastewater system.

Nelson said LCUB's plant was built in the early 1960s. "Growth has been a tremendous problem because the plant has not got enough capacity," he said. Nelson said LCUB will solicit bids for the first phase of construction in the coming week. The new plant will be built at the site of the current plant on Depot Street in Lenoir City. LCUB is the second largest utility in the area, providing electric, water and wastewater services to customers in parts of Knox, Loudon and Roane counties.