The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation staff visited the Portland Waste Water Treatment Plant multiple times in July regarding their investigation which originated from a complaint, according to Communications Director Kim Schofinski.
The TDEC web site lists one complaint which was received on June 27 concerning pollution/spills/illicit discharge. The status is listed as ongoing. In addition TDEC made scheduled trips on July 10 and 11 to conduct a pre-treatment compliance inspection.
According to Schofinski, Portland reported a total of 350 overflows to TDEC in 2018. To date in 2019, Portland has reported 225 overflows. Not all overflows occurred at chronic overflow locations. (It should be noted that February 2019 had historic amounts of rainfall.)
A chronic overflow point is defined by TDEC as a location that experiences more than five overflows over the course of a 12-month period. Overflows can pose a public health risk. TDEC requires signage at these areas to warn citizens of the health hazards. There are several of these sites in Portland with signage.
The city is in the process of making improvements at the Waste Water Treatment Plant. Phase I improvements came in at $4 million with Phase 2 expected to cost $9 million. The city council passed a 15 percent increase in the sewer rate on June 17 to help fund Phase 2 improvements. TDEC has placed the city under a total moratorium due to chronic overflow points; making the improvement a necessity.
According to Utilities Director Bryan Price, the ship was righted at the Waste Water Plant under the previous administration. The current administration is continuing to make improvements but in a different way, but staying on the right path.
Portland’s current sewer permit expires on Aug. 19, 2019. TDEC posted a draft of the proposed new permit No. TN0021865 on its website for citizens to review and make comments - http://tdec.tn.gov:8080/pls/enf_reports/f?p=9034:34031:::NO:34031:P34031_SITE_ID:5059.
There are three ways citizens can submit their comments either (1) through the USPS to the Division of Water Resources in Nashville, (2) by e-mail to Water.Permits@tn.gov, or (3) by fax number (615) 532-0686 by Sept. 10, 2019.
Citizens may also request in writing that the Director of the Division of Water Resources hold a public hearing on the draft permit. Those requesting the public hearing must indicate why a hearing is warranted. If there is significant public interest a public hearing will be announced by TDEC. Requests must be received by Sept. 10, 2019.