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Gatlinburg Sewer Plant Update

By John Disque

gatlinburg sewer treatment plant accidentBoth of the missing workers at the scene of the collapsed Gatlinburg sewer plant (John Eslinger, age 53 and Donald Story, age 44) have been found. Unfortunately, both are dead and all indications suggest they were crushed under the rubble when the tragedy first began.

Our complete condolences go out to John and Don's family and friends.

While it's a sad day in Gatlinburg it is also a day when people are asking questions, and all indications are pointing to negligence by the City of Gatlinburg.

Two sources (one is a former worker at the plant) are saying the sewer plant has been dangerously over capacitated and outdated for many years. The combination of the new tourist season and the recent rainfall and storms were the final straw. Something was sure to give way eventually, and it did today.

The Knoxville Daily Sun continues to get new information and is not finished asking questions. We will continue probing and keeping you updated until it unfolds and becomes public knowledge.

Published April 5, 2011, 9:49 p.m.

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Major Sewer Plant Accident In Gatlinburg

By John Disque

gatlinburg sewer plant accident
Image by Jeaneane Payne

A sewer plant holding tank malfunctioned and busted loose around 9:00 a.m. in Gatlinburg, TN causing millions of gallons of sewage to pour directly into the Little Pigeon River.

Two workers from the plant have been reported missing and all fears suggest that they've been swept into the river.

Officials in the area are calling the accident "a catastrophe" and added that all primary concern and focus is on finding the missing workers.

Details of the accident are not official and, at this point, information is still coming in. Spokespeople for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation are assuring the media and the public that all information will be released as soon they have more details.

Gatlinburg officials are asking the public to stay away from the area until the water is tested and more is known about the health and safety issues.

First estimates were 1.4 millions gallons, but sources say it could be as much as 3.5 million gallons.

Speculation from Daily Sun sources is that the hydraulic capacity was exceeded due to a rain event and an increase in tourism this time of year. The plant was designed to process only 5 million gallons of sewage per day. As rain comes in and overfills it, it can burst.

Given that the infrastructure in Sevier County is very outdated and heavy rains have fallen this season, an accident of this proportion was not out of the question.

The plant has been shut down and right now the cause for the malfunction is unknown.

More details will be released as soon as the information comes in.

Published April 5, 2011, 4:12 p.m.

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Related stories:
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Wildlife and Human Health Risk

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