Cumberland River Sewage

The Cumberland River in Clarksville. CHERI REEVES 

Clarksville officials mounted a vigorous defense against a potential Tennessee Riverkeeper lawsuit that claims millions of gallons of raw sewage were dumped into the Cumberland River. 

Tennessee Riverkeeper said Nov. 21 it intends to sue the city for dumping of more than 82 million gallons of sewage with overflows that happened in the past six years. 

Tennessee Riverkeeper founder David Whiteside said addressing Clarksville’s issues would go a long way to clean up the Cumberland River.

“In 2019 up to Aug. 6, there have been 58 sewage overflows totaling more than 1,431,855 gallons of untreated sewage entering the Cumberland River from the Clarksville area,” Whiteside said in a release. “Clarksville has six chronic overflow points, meaning five or more overflows occur at the same location in a year. Their permit requires a moratorium on new sewage connections be imposed for areas upstream of chronic overflow points, but there is no record any moratoriums have been issued by the city.”

Whiteside said the environmental group is concerned because when raw sewage is discharged into surface water, it carries with it bacteria and pathogens that can be a threat to public health.” 

Richard Stevens, communications director for Clarksville, said because of potential litigation, the city has declined interview requests. 

However, in a release, officials explained the city has a compliance order, which is essentially an agreement that was negotiated with the he Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation that includes an assessment of Clarksville Gas and Water’s entire system. 

“This agreement identifies areas of deficiency and outlines a plan to specifically address any known problems,” the release said. “CGW’s current five-year capital improvement plan indicates a number of specific projects to resolve any outstanding issues.” 

CGW also strives to maintain a plan that maps anticipated growth in the system in the next 20-30 years and outlines projects to improve and maintain the city’s wastewater system.

“Clarksville Gas & Water maintains a modern sewage treatment facility that was rebuilt after the flood of 2010 and takes the issue of wastewater entering area rivers seriously,” the release said. “The city has a strong working relationship with TDEC and strives to comply with the agency’s rules, regulations and standards. 

“The city intends to mount a vigorous defense against any potential Tennessee Riverkeeper lawsuit.”

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