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