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$97 million
increase from the previous
estimated cleanup cost

5.8 billion
gallons of sewage and
rain reports to have
spilled from CSOs in 2015

Rhonda Curry spent the summer training for the Ironman triathlon by swimming in the Ohio River. Despite recent progress, Louisville still dumps large volumes of sewage into local waterways.

$943M sewer problem
10 years after cleanup deal, MSD is waging an expensive Inside
By the numbers:

fight to keep tons of sewage out of area waterways Cherokee Park $45
gets relief from Typical residential custom-
ith no hesitation, Rhonda Curry tions, but records show that as much as 5.8 billion

sewage system er’s bimonthly bill in 2005
and her triathlon training part- gallons of raw sewage may have poured into area work. 10A
ner John Misiewicz jumped off a
waterways in 2015, due to heavy rainfall. That’s $105
dock near Towhead Island into the most since at least 2012. Jeffersonville Typical residential custom-
Environment asks regulators
the Ohio River. » Cleanup costs are projected to climb to $943 er’s bimonthly MSD bill in
On this day in late summer, they dodged float- million, an 11 percent increase over the $850 mil- for deadline 2016
ing plastic bottles and other debris, and Misiew- lion previously estimated, as MSD faces a quick relief. 10A
icz’s right arm collided with a 4-foot-long plastic turnaround on a new round of expensive and com- 46
pipe. plicated construction jobs. Online Miles of replaced or reha-
“When we say we are going to swim in the » Since 2005, when the sewer renovation plan bilitated miles of lines
Ohio, most of the people I know … say, ‘Oh, that’s began, a typical residential customer’s bill has At courier-
so gross,’ ” Curry said after the Waterfront Park more than doubled, rising to $105 every two, $4 million -
workout. “There are days when it is ...” months from about $45. find multiple MSD consent decree fines
The main problem is sewage. In a series » MSD’s sewer renovations are designed to videos and an and penalties paid since
A decade after the U.S. Environmental Protec- today and handle rainfall from a typical year and are based interactive look 2005
tion Agency and the Kentucky Energy and Envi- next Sunday, on 2001 amounts. But with storms getting more in- at the spills and
ronment Cabinet forced a court-approved, 19- the CJ tense, that may not be enough. repairs in the 1.1 billion
year plan to clean up Jefferson County’s waste- examines » Even after 2024, when the community has city and your The gallons of raw-sewage
water system, a Courier-Journal analysis has progress to spent nearly $1 billion to renovate its sewer sys- neighborhood. overflows eliminated from
found that while much progress has been made, meet a tem, its waterways still may not be considered Also see various sources since 2005
Louisville is still dumping huge volumes of un- federal clean enough for safe swimming and wading un- animation of
treated sewage into waterways. deadline for less the region does more to control polluted how sewage 54
In a series of articles starting today, the CJ ex- controlling stormwater from parking lots, streets, lawns and diversion Percentage of sanitary
amines local Metropolitan Sewer District data on sewage spills farms. works. sewer overflow locations
spills since 2005 and other records, finding that: and cleaning that have been eliminated
» MSD has stopped spills at some 340 loca- waterways. See SEWAGE, Page 9A or fixed

Trumptucky: Why the Bluegrass State loves The Donald
and factories. He raised two sons, rode ica again,” he said, pointing to a Trump
his Harley and bought American. sign stuck in his chain-link fence last
But he didn’t like the changes that un- week.
Chris Kenning folded over time. Good-paying factory Walter Morgan lives in Trump’s Ken-
Staff writer work dried up and moved overseas. tucky, too — 200 miles away on the other
@ckenning_cj Neighborhood blight, welfare and drugs side of the state near Hyden, a tiny town
increased. He worried about illegal im- tucked into the hills of the state’s trou-
Go looking for Donald Trump’s Ken- migrants taking jobs. He disliked Presi- bled Appalachian coal fields.
tucky, and you might find yourself on dent Barack Obama. It began to feel like Since 2012, the 40-year-old coal miner
Terry Wright’s front porch. his corner of America, where 42 percent watched more than half the coal jobs in
Wright, 59, a registered Democrat, live in poverty, was being left behind. Eastern Kentucky go up in smoke, the
grew up in the working-class Portland When Trump vowed to “make Amer- impact rippling throughout the economy.
neighborhood, where worn shotgun ica great” again, Wright was sold. His hourly pay dropped from $21 to $16
houses line historic streets near the Ohio Trump’s inconsistent opinions and com- before he was finally laid off, too. While
River. As a young man, his high school ments about Muslims, Mexicans and CHRIS KENNING/COURIER-JOURNAL it’s the result of competition from natural
degree was enough for factory jobs. He women that offended many didn't deter Terry Carpenter, 62, says he will be voting for
made a decent living painting bridges him. “He’s going to make America Amer- Donald Trump in November. See TRUMP, Page 11A

INDEX Editorial ................... 1H Lottery ..................... 2A Sports ........................ 1C @courierjournal
Arts ............................. 1I Features .................... 1E Metro ....................... 3A USA TODAY ............. 1B
Deaths ................... 23A Homes ....................... 1J Neighborhoods ... 19A Weather .................. 2A @courierjournal

SEPTEMBER 24, 2016 — JANUARY 2, 2017
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8A Sunday, October 30, 2016 The Courier-Journal #KY#Metro#

Climate change threatens sewage cleanup plans
JAMES BRUGGERS That rain fell over 91 days, according to
@JBRUGGERS MSD records. The maximum intensity
of rainfall that year was just under an
Changing local weather threatens to inch an hour, and the biggest storm
undercut Louisville’s big investment in dumped 3.15 inches over 46 hours. That
cleaner waterways. was found to be a 2.8-year sized storm.
The Metropolitan Sewer District’s 19- “When an engineer has to design
year sewer system improvements re- pipes ... what they do is go back 50 to 100
quired by the Environmental Protection years,” said Dennis Sayre, an environ-
Agency are largely based on accommo- mental engineer with the EPA in Atlanta.
dating rainfall patterns in the year 2001 – “They don’t have a crystal ball. They use
deemed typical based on the historical best engineering practices. An engineer
record. would not be able to stand before a judge
But with eight years left in a program and say, ‘I’m guessing.’ ”
that must be completed in 2024, MSD is He said he cannot say how the EPA
already documenting more frequent, in- would respond to more spills that might
tense rains. And some observers are be brought on by climate change.
wondering whether the EPA eventually But he said the EPA is trying to get
will require even more costly sewage- utilities like MSD to “have a culture
spill controls because the weather in, change and to maintain their systems
say, 2030 won’t be anything like what it based on current and projected condi-
was in 2001. tions. The hope is, in 20 years, EPA
MSD officials say they hope that doesn’t have to revisit Louisville.”
won’t be the case. But Brian Bingham,
MSD’s operations chief, said that “it’s COURIER-JOURNAL FILE PHOTO
Margin of safety
skewing to where the big (storms) are As much as seven inches of rain fell in two hours on Aug. 4, 2009, causing widespread flash Bingham said that even though MSD
getting bigger,” while acknowledging flooding, emergency rescues and massive sewage overflows. Here, a newly arrived immigrant is sizing its sewer system on 2001, the
the possibility of related challenges family to Louisville was seen navigating water at Broadway and Brent streets at Beargrass agency “put some safety factors” into its
complying with the federal Clean Water Creek. MSD officials say Louisville is getting extreme rain more frequently. calculations because of climate con-
Act and protecting the community from cerns.
flooding. For example, the reductions in over-
A warmer atmosphere holds more MSD’s planned network of seven gi- some of it, and we don’t know how much, flows achieved by most of a planned $50
moisture. And scientists are concerned ant underground storage basins and a is certainly attributable to climate million in spending on so-called green in-
about what that means for communities 2.5-mile-long tunnel is designed to tem- change. How MSD is anticipating that is frastructure – making the city more like
across the nation that are beginning to porarily hold that mixture of rain and a big question that needs to be ad- a sponge – are not being counted by the
grapple with how to adapt to global sewage for treatment later. But will all dressed.” EPA for compliance purposes, he said.
warming. that storage be enough to handle the That gives MDS wriggle room to meet
“Based on our climate science, we ex- storms of the future? No crystal balls EPA requirements, Bingham said.
pect (extreme rain) to go up,” said Ken- Scientists talk about rain events in MSD officials say the changing rain Trees also reduce runoff and sewage
neth Kunkel, a senior scientist with the terms of their chances of occurring in patterns are on top on their minds. overflows by capturing and storing wa-
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Ad- any single year. For example, what they Bingham said he’s more worried ter, so Louisville’s efforts to restore a di-
ministration’s Cooperative Institute for call a 100-year storm would have a 1 per- about increased flooding risks in the minished tree canopy should help, Ak-
Climate and Satellites in North Carolina. cent chance of happening in any year – years ahead due in part to MSD’s aging ridge said.
“You better prepare for bigger rain based on historical records. By contrast, flood-protection system, including anti- But with bigger storms more com-
events and more frequent heavy rain a five-year storm would have a 20 per- quated Ohio River flood pumping sta- mon, the consent decree requirements
events.” cent chance of occurring in any year, tions. may not be enough, warns one MSDS
The stakes are high. while a two-year storm would have a 50 “Detention basins around town aren’t critic, attorney Bud Hixson.
“Communities are investing a lot of percent chance. going to be big enough to keep rain out of “We could be paying ($943 million) in
money on infrastructure, and they are One might, therefore, expect a 100- the subdivisions and the neighbor- construction costs and millions more in
going to want it to work,” said David year storm – in Louisville, that would be hoods,” warned Akridge. annual operation costs, with so much un-
Easterling, a NOAA climate scientist. 4.5 inches of rain in six hours, or 6.2 inch- MSD’s consent agreement with the treated sewage still going into the creeks
“But the statistical models they use now es over 24 hours – to happen once a centu- federal and state regulators could still be they will remain unsafe,” Hixson said.
for rain may not be taking into account ry. changed and projects modified as new NOAA’s Easterling said that new sta-
these new trends.” But MSD counts at least three such information about local weather emerg- tistical techniques are just now being de-
potent storms in Louisville in the last two es, Akridge said. Some changes were re- veloped that factor in weather trends
Are we doing enough? decades. cently made to increase the capacities of when calculating the return period of
Heavy rains washing off roads, park- And, they say, Louisville has had 11 new storage basins, but the modifica- storms of various intensity.
ing lots and buildings fill up shared sew- storms with 3 inches or more of rain in 24 tions were still based on 2001 weather Communities that go into the future
er and storm pipes in the older parts of hours in the last decade. That’s a dou- patterns. with open eyes could save money, he add-
Louisville, causing massive spills to bling of those larger storms compared to “Everything we are designing that the ed.
Beargrass Creek and the Ohio River – 5.6 the previous 50 years, according to MSD. EPA has approved is based on what was “It’s a lot less expensive to design in
billion gallons in 2015 alone, according to “The amount of rain we are seeing, in place and what happened in 2001,” Ak- an extra 10 or 20 percent capacity now
an analysis by the Courier-Journal. That some of it is obviously attributable to ridge added. “We are not designing for than to retrofit later,” he said.
volume was 130 percent higher than the normal weather changes,” said Tim 2030.”
year before, elevated by an extremely Joice, watershed program director for In 2001, 42.8 inches of rain fell, which Reach reporter James Bruggers at
wet 2015, and about 1 billion gallons more the Kentucky Waterways Alliance, an is about 6 inches less than MSD says the (502) 582-4645 and at jbruggers@courier-
than an estimated 10-year average. environmental advocacy group. “But Louisville area has averaged since 2005.

Runoff Location of sewage storage basins and tunnel
Continued from Page 1A Portland
2.5 mile long tunnel
Capacity: 6.7M gallons

should certainly help,” he said.
But by all accounts, one of the big-
gest culprits is all the hard surfaces
that act like funnels to storm drains Clifton Heights
leading to creeks and rivers. And Louis- Capacity: 7M gallons
ville has a lot of hard surfaces.
In April, for example, readers of a Southwestern Parkway
smart-growth blog, Streetsblog, voted Capacity: 20M gallons
Louisville the winner of the 2016 Golden Underground sewage
Crater Award, “a symbol of the shame- storage tunnel
I-64 & Grinstead Drive
ful amount of space we’ve allowed sur- Capacity: 8.5M gallons
face parking to consume in our commu-
The blog said that “barren asphalt in Logan Street
the ‘SoBro’ neighborhood near down- Capacity: 16.7M gallons
town carried Louisville to victory.”
Depaving SWAT team
The city’s sustainability plan identi-
fied the need to reduce hard surfaces,
said Maria Koetter, the city’s sustaina-
bility director. It called that “one of the
greatest challenges to Louisville’s wa- Bells Lane
terways,” requiring “changes in how Capacity: 25M gallons
the city manages existing areas, new Nightingale
property developments, and infra- Capacity: 7.7M gallons
structure retrofits throughout Louis-
“It’s one of those issues we need to
take on as a city, kind of like recycling,”
Koetter said.
The city’s recent studies on urban Combined sewer overflows Sanitary sewer overflows by waterway
heat and trees are driving discussions
and actions that should help by boosting by waterway 80
tree canopy, which soaks up rain, she 71.4
added. 40 70
Koetter also envisions a volunteer 60
stormwater SWAT team for parking
Middle Fork Beargrass Creek

Middle Fork Beargrass Creek

Muddy Fork Beargrass Creek
South Fork Beargrass Creek

lots – an attack crew with sledge ham- 30
South Fork Beargrass Creek

50 45.5
mers and shovels backed by engineers
who help parking lot owners remove 40
Millions of gallons
Billions of gallons

Upper Sinking Fork

Wedgewood Ditch

enough asphalt to at least let some rain 20
30 26.6
Beargrass Creek

seep into the soil.
Northern Ditch

Greasy Ditch

MSD has a $47 million green infra-
Alvey Ditch

Ohio River

Ohio River
Mill Creek

structure incentive program that’s 6.1 12.5
helping to make some parking lots soak 1.3
3.1 10 7.0 6.2 5.8 5.3 4.8
up more rain with features such as bio- 2.2
0 0
swales, rain gardens and porous pave- Location of spills, over 10 years Location of spills, over 10 years
ment. And MSD in 2013 for the first time
required developers to treat and clean
part of “the first flush” of polluted run-
off at new or redeveloped residential, Now there is a new study underway tween now and the end of 2020 to tackle tunnel will hold sewage and rain until
commercial and industrial projects. looking at improvements and public ac- the huge task of curbing billions of gal- the rain passes, then send the wastewa-
Owners and managers of those proper- cess on the lower portions of the creek lons of annual overflows from com- ter for treatment when the system can
ties must make sure those cleaning by Louisville Metro Parks and the U.S. bined storm and sewer pipes as it enters handle it. MSD will capture and treat 98
mechanisms keep working. Army Corps of Engineers. the second half of its 19-year sewer sys- percent of that combined sewer over-
But we’ve been here before. There’s tem cleanup. flow volume for what’s been deemed a
been no shortage of studies aimed at Missed goal “Failure is not an option,” said Greg typical year of rain, said Angela Ak-
greening up Beargrass Creek, the Cou- Four years. Seven large sewage stor- Powell, an MSD engineer, or EPA could ridge, chief engineer of the agency.
rier-Journal found in a 2008 special re- age basins. One giant tunnel. hit MSD with big fines.
port. They’ve largely collected dust. MSD is under a tight deadline be- The storage basins and 2.5-mile long Continued on Next Page

College basketball season starts
next week. Crack the code with our
preseason guide inside. 1K


One big challenge: Reducing hard
surface areas that add to problem
It’s the more-than-a-billion-dol-
lar question: What will it take to
clean up our urban waterways,
Bruggers such as the three forks of Bear-
grass Creek that drain so much of
The answer is likely a lot more
than the $943 million the Metropol-
itan Sewer District is spending to
curb spills from its leaking sewer
PHOTOS BY MATT STONE/COURIER-JOURNAL Dirty, contaminated stormwa-
Paranormal investigators Mike Culwell, left, and Matthew Jackson conduct an investigation at a potter’s field cemetery at Sam About ter washes off streets, parking lots,
Peden Community Park in New Albany earlier in October. Culwell is a retired detective from the New Albany Police Department. the series buildings, lawns and farms when it
rains. And under federal clean-wa-
A decade after ter rules, it’s not regulated as tight-
NEW ALBANY, ly as what comes out of a sewage

the EPA and
Ind. – Standing over the state pipe.
two headstones a few forced a court- Bruce Scott, a longtime Bear-
Goetz hundred yards from approved, grass Creek advocate and former
Staff the abandoned Floyd 19-year plan to president of the Kentucky Water-
County Asylum, clean up ways Alliance, calls stormwater
Mike Culwell slipped Jefferson the “800-pound gorilla. That’s

a St. Michael holy County’s where most of the pollution is com-
card from his wallet wastewater ing from.”
and recited the system, a A lot of attention has focused on
Catholic prayer for Courier-Journal Beargrass Creek, whose three
protection. The re- analysis has forks – the Muddy, the Middle and
tired 36-year veteran found that the South – drain 61 square miles
of the New Albany Police Depart- while much across the heart of Louisville. The
ment readied himself for another progress has creek receives massive volumes of
investigation. But neither gun nor been made, sewage overflows by design, from
badge would offer him sanctuary in Louisville is still combined sewage and stormwater
this case. dumping huge pipes that spill during rain. But a
“Saint Michael the Archangel, volumes of Beargrass Creek study from a few
defend us in battle,” he intoned. “Be untreated years ago identified stormwater –
our safeguard against the wicked- sewage into not those combined sewer over-
ness and snares of the devil. … By waterways. flows – as the biggest problem,
the power of God, thrust into hell causing more than 60 percent of
Satan, and all the evil spirits who More online that waterway’s pathogen pollu-
wander through the world for the tion, which can cause infections
ruins of souls. Amen.” At courier- and stomach ailments.
Mike and his fellow investigator,, “The state and (Environmental
Matthew Jackson, knew not the cul- find multiple Protection Agency) have been
prits. They had no notion of who videos and an starting to move toward more sam-
they were looking for nor what interactive look pling of stormwater to get a better
they’d find. They had no names at the spills and assessment of where they may be
save the ones on the headstones: repairs in the having issues,” said Lindell Orms-
Lerian Neves and Charles Potter. city and your bee, director of the Kentucky Wa-
Yet in this potter’s field, they neighborhood. ter Resources Research Institute
hoped to commune with the dead. Also see at the University of Kentucky. “But
The pair are members of a loose- animation of at this point, there still are not reg-
ly knit network of paranormal en- how sewage ulatory limits placed on stormwa-
Paranormal investigator Matthew Jackson of holds a voice recorder thusiasts that Matthew founded diversion ter outfalls.”
while calling out to spirits that may be in the former juvenile home in New Albany who call themselves Paraholics. works. Studies show that groundwater
on Grant Line Road. Moments later, a short wail could be heard down the hallway. They like to say: Our addiction isn’t in that watershed is also polluted,
normal. It’s paranormal. and Ormsbee said he suspects a lot
Their methods aren’t scientific, of that is from leaking sewers. “If
Explore the investigation in a 360 degree virtual reality video. and they profess neither proof nor they fix the leaking sewers, that

YouTube: Facebook: See SPIRITS, Page 10A See RUNOFF, Page 8A

INDEX Deaths ................... 25A Lottery ..................... 2A Sports ........................ 1C @courierjournal
Arts ............................. 1I Editorial ................... 1H Indiana .................... 3A USA TODAY ............. 1B @courierjournal
College Basketball . 1K Features ................... 1D Neighborhoods ... 21A Weather .................. 2A

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10A Sunday, October 23, 2016 The Courier-Journal #KY#Metro#

Jeff can’t afford sewer fixes, seeks EPA delay
MADELEINE WINER in the 1970s, the EPA did not regulate dis-
COURIER-JOURNAL MATT STONE/CJ charging sewage into waterways.
New Albany has Jeffersonville and more than 100 oth-
Jeffersonville has asked federal reg- spent more er communities in Indiana entered into
ulators for a 10-year deadline extension than $50 million agreements with the EPA that call for
to improve its inadequate sewer system on long-term plans that typically include 15-
because of limited financing options and improvements. 20 years of fixing sewer lines, expanding
rising costs. Rob Sartell, wastewater treatment facilities and sub-
While the city has already spent near- New Albany’s mitting monthly reports to the EPA.
ly $100 million on sewer improvements utilities director, New Albany fixed its sewer system in
required under a Clean Water Act decree holds up a the late 1990s to handle wastewater and
since 2010, the price tag for the last beaker of stormwater separately, said Rob Sartell,
phase could jump from the budgeted $33 treated water the city’s utilities director.
million up to $45 million, based on cur- that will be But like Jeffersonville, New Albany’s
rent construction costs, said Len Ash- released into sewer system was built to accommodate
ack, Jeffersonville’s utilities director. the Ohio River. the city’s population at the time, and as it
And that’s money that the city would Microorganisms grew, the sewer system didn’t grow with
be hard-pressed to raise to meet the En- help clean and it.
vironmental Protection Agency’s 2025 filter the water. Combined with old pipes, this caused
federal deadline. So it’s asked for a re- sites where sewage was processed to
prieve. overflow during heavy rains as storm-
Jeffersonville already has $94.8 mil- water would seep into sewage lines. Cur-
lion in outstanding sewer debt that will expected capital upgrades to the system River and its tributaries. rently, the city has 16 of these sites.
take until at least 2031 to pay off, accord- to meet new federal phosphorus limits in The city has eliminated four of its To fix these sites, New Albany also en-
ing to its five-year financial assessment. the treated discharge entering water- overflow sites and cut the volume of sew- tered into an agreement with the EPA in
And it can’t raise the extra bond money ways. age it discharges by almost 50 percent, 2002. Since then, the city has spent more
needed to finish the sewer project with- “Everyone wants to save the environ- according to EPA records. But seven than $50 million on improvements in-
out breaching bond covenants or invit- ment, but it costs to do that,” Ashack sites still overflow during heavy rains cluding a expanding its wastewater
ing a credit downgrade. said. “And the well is only so deep.” and pollute waterways. treatment plant, installing new pipes and
Some of the other big financial prob- The EPA said Jeffersonville and other Ashack said the city is asking the EPA upgrading lift stations, Sartell said. With
lems facing Jeffersonville’s plans in- communities in Southern Indiana have for 10 more years to make improvements improvements come higher sewer rates,
clude: to make improvements to its sewer sys- to its system, including projects that with the city’s most recent at 70 percent
» Its sewer rates are already among tem to prevent improperly treated would help control overflow sites and over two years starting in 2010.
the state’s highest — at an average of wastewater from polluting the Ohio Riv- bring its system up to EPA standards. Higgenbotham said the both sanitary
$67.27 for residential customers using er and other waterways in Southern Indi- “The city’s trying to work with the and combined sewer systems are a prior-
5,000 gallons per month — and would ana. EPA and state to give us more time to do ity to address because if not taken care
have to nearly triple to pay for the last About 1,000 acres of downtown Jeffer- the things we say we’re going to do,” Ash- of, they can become a public health con-
phase, making Jeffersonville’s sewer sonville — from Main Street to the city ack said. “We’ll do them. We just need cern.
rate by far the highest in the state, ac- limits with Clarksville — have combined more time to get them done.” “If someone were to come in contact
cording to the city’s financial capability sewers, pipes that collect excess rainwa- Many combined sewage overflow with it, even though it’s diluted raw sew-
assessment. ter, domestic sewage and industrial systems in Indiana are up to 70 years old age, it increases people’s risk of becom-
» The state’s “circuit breaker” tax wastewater. and were built to accommodate a city’s ing sick.”
credit, which imposed limits on property Most of the time, the system carries population at the time, said Paul Higgin- Madeleine Winer is the Southern
tax bills, has cut Jeffersonville tax col- wastewater to sewage treatment plants. botham, assistant commissioner for the Indiana communities reporter for the
lections by 14 percent to 18 percent since But during heavy rains and snow melts, Indiana Department of Environmental Courier-Journal. Reach her at 502-582-
2012. these sewers overflow, allowing inade- Management’s Water Quality Office. Be- 4087 or by email at mrwiner@courier-
» It’s facing millions of dollars in un- quately treated sewage to enter the Ohio fore the Clean Water Act was established


said. Combined sewer overflows “are Big Rock is a popular place to cool off along Beargrass Creek in Cherokee Park, but sewage
Sewage tricky.”
But federal and state regulators are
system spills put the public at risk in a park where children have long liked to splash or wade
in the water, especially at the Big Rock.
Continued from Page 9A generally pleased, even though both said
MSD was not very cooperative with them
initially, the CJ found.
downpours has performed well with odor
control, MSD officials said. But it also trig-
“At this point, they are complying,”
Sayre said. “They are very cooperative.”
Relief is on the way for
gered a local outcry.
Carolyn Hayes, a critic of the basin and
MSD, said she was concerned about odors,
The Kentucky Division of Water over-
sees enforcement of the Clean Water Act
in the state. Its director, Peter Goodmann,
Cherokee Park sewage spills
“and it was going to lower property val- said he’s pleased with the progress. “They
ues.” are doing what they said they are going to JAMES BRUGGERS MSD’s operations chief Brian
She said she still has those concerns. do.” @JBRUGGERS Bingham said the Spring Drive over-
At Beechwood Village, a small city next flow is now spilling only stormwater
to St. Matthews, MSD crews no longer The financial toll Cherokee Park, one of Louisville’s into the creek. But it can carry con-
need to pump the contents of sewer lines MSD has tempered its rate increases green jewels, remains under assault taminants of its own from fertilizers,
directly into a tributary of Beargrass by borrowing money. But $1.8 billion in from sewage. dirty roads, dog and wildlife feces,
Creek to help prevent backups in hundreds debt has placed the agency under serious Sewer manholes have spilled some and other sources. And the volumes
of homes during storms. New sewers end- financial pressure, with threats of lower 45 million gallons at 10 locations over the last two years have been huge – 40
ed that practice and the bacteria spikes it bond ratings because revenue is not keep- the last decade, leaving trails of toilet million gallons in 2014, and 44 million
caused. MSD is now doing something simi- ing pace with borrowing. paper and condoms on streets or in the gallons in 2015.
lar in the Camp Taylor area off Poplar Lev- Even though MSD reports that its rates woods, a Courier-Journal analysis of MSD in 1999 also took out another
el Road with contractors installing new are at the national average, some custom- agency data shows. combined sewer and storm water
sewers and connections to 1,400 homes, ers get frustrated. And a single spill location annually overflow point in the heart of the
many haphazardly developed on the for- “If the federal government is going to dumps on average 77 million gallons of park, right along Scenic Loop, in a
mer World War I military base. The cost: mandate this be done, they should give rain-diluted sewage into a tributary of project certified as complete in 2012,
$24 million. (MSD) subsidies,” said Larry Heck, who Beargrass Creek not far from the pop- officials said.
“There were literally homes built on top described himself as retired and living on ular Beargrass Creek Greenway recre- But a 2005 cleanup plan made a pri-
of sewers and in their basements were a fixed income. ational trail that leads into and out of ority out of illegal overflows from
manholes,” said John Loechle, MSD engi- “Every year I fall further behind,” said the park, Metropolitan Sewer District sewage-only pipes in places like
neering director. “Almost every home out Phillip Hundly, who works at an industrial records show. Beechwood Village and locations out-
here has experienced a sanitary sewer purchasing agency. “You are looking at “That’s disgusting,” said John Lish- side the Watterson Expressway.
backup.” everything increasing at a higher rate erman, who walks his two English shep- Now with a lot of that work done,
Help can’t come fast enough, said Phil than your salary.” herds daily in Cherokee Park. “The MSD has turned its attention to the
Kavanaugh, a former president of the MSD has also had to work to shake dis- whole thing is that the infrastructure is problems of the combined sewer and
Camp Taylor Neighborhood Association. trust following a scathing state audit in totally overwhelmed.” storm lines typical of older parts of
“We’ve been pushing this thing, trying to 2011 that found financial and ethical The spill points even have local the city, and that will be good for Che-
get it forever. We hope that once all this is lapses. Mayor Greg Fischer replaced the names, like condom corner or putrid rokee Park and its visitors, said MSD
done, it takes care of the problem (and) we organization’s leadership, which has fol- pass. The park’s messy situation isn’t chief engineer Angela Akridge.
won’t see the sewer caps blowing off, we lowed the audit’s recommendations for because MSD missed any cleanup A large storage basin planned for
won’t have the backups.” improvements. deadlines or is looking the other way. near Grinstead Drive and Lexington
The next hurdle may be the agency’s Sayre said many utilities weren’t Officials say they eliminated some 29 Road near the former Jim Porter’s bar
biggest yet — reducing its largest source charging customers enough to maintain million gallons per year of overflows and dance hall will be large enough to
of overflows, some 2 billion to 6 billion gal- their systems properly. “That’s sort of into the creek as it enters the park near store rain and sewage to end spills at
lons per year according to what MSD has how they got to where they are,” he said. Spring Drive in 2013 with major plumb- the Beals Branch overflow during a
reported to the EPA. They come from 98 Others acknowledged a price for clean ing changes that separated stormwater typical year, she said.
combined sewer overflow locations along water. Louisville had no sewage treatment and sewer lines for more than 900 “You have to take care of the com-
Beargrass Creek and the Ohio River until 1958 and is “making up for a lot of lost homes. bined system first,” so the pipes have
where even a small rain can cause a spill. ground,” said Bruce Scott, a longtime The ongoing spills put the public at some relief and won’t overflow as
MSD has four years to shoehorn seven Beargrass Creek advocate and a member risk in a park where children have long much, Akridge said.
large storage basins into the older part of of an MSD advisory group. liked to splash or wade in the water, es- MSD officials said other diver-
Louisville and bore a 2.5-mile-long tunnel “If it means a few more dollars on my pecially at the Big Rock landmark. sions and storage upstream from the
along the Ohio River downtown, spending MSD bill so ... they can practice Ironman “It’s an unfortunate reality,” said park will resolve all remaining sewer
hundreds of millions of additional dollars. swims in the river, or somebody can take Tim Joice, a program director with line overflows in Cherokee park and
Earlier this year, the state and the EPA their kids out on a kayak, or the dogs can Kentucky Waterways Alliance, an ad- along the Middle Fork in 2023.
fined MSD $118,500 for illegal spills in 2013 jump in, well, OK,” said Curry, the triath- vocacy group. That’s as long as it doesn’t rain too
and 2014. That’s on top of more than $4 mil- lete. “You think about the value that (the much.
lion in other penalties issued under terms Reach reporter James Bruggers at creek) not only provides the communi- Reach reporter James Bruggers at
of the consent decree from earlier years. (502) 582-4645 and at jbruggers@courier- ty but could provide the community” if (502) 582-4645 and at jbruggers@cou-
“They still have a long way to go,” Sayre it were cleaned up, he said.
#KY#Metro# The Courier-Journal Sunday, October 23, 2016 9A

Continued from Page 1A

» In Southern Indiana, Jeffersonville is
seeking relief from EPA deadlines to mod-
ernize its sewer system, claiming it can’t
afford to meet them after already spending
nearly $100 million.
Sewage spills are of particular concern
because Louisville’s waterfront is a popu-
lar gathering place for 2 million visitors a
year, with an increasing focus on water rec-
Beargrass Creek, Floyds Fork and other
waterways are also seeing increased recre-
ational demand. Yet Floyds Fork, Bear-
grass Creek, the Ohio River down from
Louisville and other local waterways still
fail to meet federal clean-water standards
in part because of all the sewage, which can
cause infections and stomach ailments.
There is strong agreement that for
Louisville to compete economically, it
needs a high quality of life, and that in-
cludes cleaner waterways for swimming,
boating and kayaking.
“The Ohio River is our front door, and MICHAEL CLEVENGER/COURIER-JOURNAL
it’s important for people to be able to recre- One of many homes in the historic Camp Taylor neighborhood that is having new sewer lines installed as MSD replaces area infrastructure.
ate in the Ohio River,” said Timothy J. Ha-
gerty, an attorney with Frost Brown Todd
and a representative of Greater Louisville
Inc., the metro chamber of commerce.
“Things like Ironman and boat recreation,
all those things are important factors in be-
ing able to attract business and to attract
National crackdown
Louisville, Jeffersonville and New Alba-
ny are among many older cities across the
country that have been caught up in an EPA
enforcement initiative to get sewage out of
Although MSD is now unsure of some of
its own sewage reporting data after ques-
tions were raised by the CJ, the official rec-
ord shows that city sewers are still dump-
ing large amounts.
Curry, the triathlete, said the worst days
are after rain flushes untreated sewage
into the water. She and Misiewicz don’t
swim then. Still, Curry said she’d like the
river to be cleaner so “I don’t have to worry
about getting sick.”
The bacteria-laden sewage remains a
black eye for the community.
“Raw sewage causes a lot of difficul-
ties,” said Dennis Sayre, an environmental
engineer with the EPA in Atlanta.
MSD has been praised for meeting its
deadlines and coming in under budget dur-
ing the first half of the sewer renovation
program, the CJ found. But several factors
are driving up costs:
» $40 million in cost overruns linked to
MSD’s giant Logan Street basin under con- ILLUSTRATION BY BEKAH WHITE/GANNETT
struction in Smoketown;
» Higher prices from contractors be- Glossary:

cause of a shortage of bids that MSD
blames on a robust economy that gives con- Combined sewer overflows (CSOs):
tractors other options; These are outfall for pipes that carry both
» and by its own account, MSD business sewage and stormwater. On dry days, a
practices that sent bidders away, such as weir in the pipe blocks sewage and sends it
putting too much risk on contractors and
having uneven project management.
“We are trying to create a culture where
for treatment. But during a storm, water
and sewage flow over the weir and into
the waterway. These overflows are not
Learn More at Our
we want to be ... a good business partner,” illegal but EPA wants MSD to capture and
with contractors, said Angela Akridge, treat 98 percent of their volume during a
MSD chief engineer. “The good news is we typical weather year.
are making improvements.” Sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs): These
The overall project is so large that it is spills come from pipes designed to carry

(502) 219-2359
taking up nearly all of MSD’s capital bud- only sewage. Often crumbling and leaky,
get; there’s little money left over to pay for they fill with water during heavy rains, a
other public safety measures, such as reno- problem made worse by basement sump
vating aging flood-protection equipment. pumps. These spills are illegal and EPA
√ Proven Safe √ Highly Effective √ Pain Free Procedure √ No Down Time
The numbers seem staggering. wants them eliminated during rain that
In all, about 5.8 billion gallons spilled in dumps about 2 inches during a three-hour
2015. That’s enough to fill Louisville Water cloudburst.
Co.’s Crescent Hill Reservoir 53 times. Consent decree: The result of a 2005
But the CJ review also shows real pro- enforcement action by the state of Ken-
gress, at least for one of two kinds of spills tucky and the EPA. MSD is on a court-
that have plagued the community — the approved schedule to complete dozens of
ones engineers call sanitary sewer over- projects and meet specific spill reduction
flows. They are caused by crumbling, goals by 2024.
leaky pipes that fill with water during
heavy rains. The other kind of spills are
called combined sewer overflows; they About the data:
spew from sewers that share sewage and
rain and are designed to overflow during Covered
The CJ obtained MSD databases for com- by
rain. bined sewer overflows and sanitary sewer Most
Sanitary sewer overflows send raw overflows. SSO numbers are volume esti- Insuranc
sewage out of manholes onto streets and mates based on observations, going back es,
yards and sometimes into people’s homes to 2005. Including
during storms. For CSOs, MSD has been phasing in flow Medicare
The records show that since 2005, MSD monitors over the last decade at 98 remain-
has eliminated those spills at 21 percent of ing locations. The agency uses a combina-
the more than 600 locations where they tion of a water elevation gauge and a
have occurred, effectively vanquishing 61 mathematical formula to calculate CSO
percent of a total of 1.9 billion gallons of volumes. Only since 2012 have all 98 had
sanitary sewer overflows since then. Prob- such monitoring. At Bodyworks Musculoskeletal Medicine, we are alleviating
lems were fixed at another 34 percent of After the CJ raised a question, MSD began knee arthritis pain with proven treatment options such as
those locations, accounting for 5 percent of checking looking its calculations. MSD
viscosupplementation and advanced regenerative medicine
that spillage. officials say flow data for 25 of 98 locations
And despite big storms in 2015 that may overestimate spill volume. They say procedures including PRP and stem cell therapies. These
caused overall spill numbers to balloon, the they may not have taken into account nonoperative, outpatient procedures are FDA compliant and
sanitary sewer overflow volume that year elevated backwater during rain. have been successfully used by countless people to eliminate
was among the smallest in a decade. At eight of the 98 CSO locations, the calcu- their knee pain. Why not you?
“We know we are getting cleaner water lations may underestimate the volume. The
because we are having less sewer overflow agency plans to work with regulators to
volume,” said Brian Bingham, chief of op- determine whether and how to fix any
• Eliminate / Reduce Pain & Inflammation
erations for MSD. errors. It was not clear how their recalcula- • Engage in Daily Activities Without Pain
tions might change the overall findings. • Improved Range of Motion
Engineering challenges But regardless, the overall volumes would • Eliminate Morning Stiffness
Like air traffic control for sewage, MSD still likely be much higher than the Clean • Improved Sleep
has developed a network of rain gauges Water Act allows.
and underground valves to track incoming MSD is not questioning its sanitary sewer
• Easily Go Up & Down Stairs
bad weather and direct sewage to storage
Wednesday, October 26th Wednesday, November 2nd
overflow reporting.
pipes, preventing hundreds of millions of
gallons of overflows a year.
MSD expanded the capacity of its re- 12 - 1 PM 6 - 7 PM
gional treatment plants, including spend- tributary of Floyds Fork — a centerpiece Bodyworks Musculoskeletal Medicine Bodyworks Musculoskeletal Medicine
ing $97 million on a new pumping station at for Louisville’s newest park system.
its Derek Guthrie plant that required dig- The new 100-million-gallon storm-surge 3010 Eastpoint Parkway 3010 Eastpoint Parkway
ging a hole large enough to swallow the basin constructed at a cost of $20 million in Louisville, KY 40223 Louisville, KY 40223
equivalent of a 13-story building. the Hikes Lane area to provide temporary
It shut down the overwhelmed Jeffer- storage of sewage and rain during

sontown treatment plant that frequently
dumped partially treated wastewater into a Continued on Next Page