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Lebanon sewer moratorium possible
Mar 07, 2005 12:00 am
State environmental officials did not rule out the possibility of a sewer moratorium in Lebanon Thursday, noting the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) will closely monitor progress toward city sewer improvements.
"They could be subject to a moratorium in the future if (TDEC) feels they are not making significant progress or if we believe that the introduction of additional flow would exacerbate the existing problem," TDEC spokesperson Dana Coleman explained.
Noting a sewer moratorium would effectively bring development in the city to a halt, Lebanon lawmakers described the situation as "a tremendous concern" but noted the city is steadily progressing with plans to address TDEC's concerns.
"We've been going according to TDEC's guidelines, and I just hope that they don't put a moratorium on us because we've got a lot of growth and a lot of things going on," Ward 2 Councilor Annette Stafford said. "We've got a lot of people looking at our city right now, and this is just not the time to stop growth."
Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath, like Stafford, agreed a moratorium would have a devastating impact on development. However, Warmath noted the city will likely soon adopt a five-year plan to correct sewage problems identified in an order issued by TDEC Commissioner Betsy Child last year.
A portion of that plan to simply address the conditions in Child's order comes at a price tag of $16 million. The entire five year plan tops out at over $36 million.
According to the order, which was issued in an amended form in August 2004, TDEC requested the city "self-impose a moratorium to the wastewater collection system" on Oct. 23, 2003.
"This was determined to be necessary because of chronic overflows," the order read.
In addition to the proposed sewer rehabilitation project, Warmath noted the city has taken steps to "self-police" the municipal sewer system, such as forbidding the Lebanon Planning Commission from considering residential developments consisting of more than 14 lots.
"I think we are very aware that we have a challenge in front of us. I think we are fairly certain that it is going to take money and effort, and we're already working at it," Warmath said. "Whatever TDEC feels like they need to do, we'll deal with it. I feel like we have exercised the options they wanted us to since last October, and if we continue on our plan and fulfill our end of the bargain, I see no reason for them to come in and take any kind of negative action."
Both Warmath and Ward 3 Councilor William Farmer added a sewer moratorium imposed on Lebanon by the Environmental Protection Agency in the late 1970s had severely affected the city's development.
"It's a tremendous concern because once you're placed under a moratorium where you cannot make connections, you can't support growth or new business," Farmer commented.
Coleman noted city officials are working to correct overflow problems, but she declined to comment on the chances of a moratorium.
"It's one of those things that could happen. Any significant-sized addition to the system has to have plans submitted to the state for review and approval, so that's one of the ways the state can monitor additions to that system," Coleman said. "Of course, since they're under an order, we probably would look even more closely to make sure they weren't putting more on the system than it could handle."
Calls to Lebanon Mayor Don Fox for comment were not returned Thursday.
Staff Writer Brian Harville can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 16 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.