Nashville Settlement Requires Million-dollar Upgrades

The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County (combined entity Metro) agreed to make extensive improvements, at the cost of $300 million to $400 million, to eliminate unauthorized overflows of raw sewage and to control overflows of combined sewage and stormwater.

The improvements are required under a consent agreement between Metro and the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ), EPA, the Tennessee attorney general's office and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). The settlement will lead to the reduction of approximately 1.3 million pounds of pollutants per year, officials said.

"While Nashville's aging sewer system still requires significant improvement, Metro's efforts to date and its cooperative approach throughout negotiations was instrumental in expediting the resolution of this settlement," said Jimmy Palmer, EPA Region 4 administrator. "We hope that successful outcomes like this will encourage other wastewater utilities to be proactive when it comes to addressing sewer overflow problems."

Each year, Metro has been unlawfully discharging more than 200 million gallons of untreated sewage and experiencing overflows of billions of gallons of combined sewage into the Cumberland River and its tributaries, according to the investigation. Under the agreement, Metro must propose and implement specific corrective action plans to bring combined sewer overflows (CSOs), which are overflows of a combination of untreated sewage and storm water from permitted outfall locations, into compliance with water quality standards. Additionally, Metro must create and carry out specific corrective action plans to eliminate unauthorized sanitary sewer overflows.

The settlement also requires Metro to improve its sewer system's management operation and maintenance programs to prevent future overflows and respond to overflows when they occur.

In addition to the required corrective action plans, the consent decree requires Metro to pay a civil penalty; the federal government will be paid $282,019, and Tennessee will receive $282,019. Metro also will perform two supplemental environmental projects at a cost of $2.8 million to extend sewer service to areas served only by septic systems, some of which are defective and have negatively affected water quality.

The consent decree was filed on Oct. 24 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. To view the consent decree, go to

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