Sewer Treatment Plant Tragedy
-- Repeated Proven Negligence By Both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge
By John Disque
One seemingly small disaster that took the lives of two innocent people (John Eslinger and Don Storey) has suddenly bloomed into something bigger than I ever imagined. At the same time - it is branching off into many different categories and questions.
This article will attempt to prioritize the issues and make sense of some of the unanswered public questions and concerns.
Was John and Don's death preventable? Are the future deaths and injuries of plant employees preventable? Are the past, current, and future public health and wildlife health-risks preventable? Was or is there city mismanagement and neglect? – The answers are: absolutely.
It's been said that no one took the situation seriously until April 5, 2011, but that is not true and the Knoxville Daily Sun now has over 200 pages of official documentation proving it.
In 2003 the State of Tennessee repeatedly warned both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge of the impending disaster to both the city's wastewater plants, the employees of the plants, the environmental concerns and every other aspect of the situation.
The proposal was for both cities to work together to build one new plant and to use the French Broad River to discharge the treated wastewater. Complete detailed cost estimates, current and future tourism, business and residential growth predictions are all outlined and all prove the cities' sewer water treatment plants are completely outdated and doomed for disaster.
In 2005 the State of Tennessee offered the same suggestions with updated estimates of cost and breakdowns in all areas of expansion. Nothing was done.
They came back again in 2007 and again made the impending disaster clear as day. Nothing was done.
Again, they came back in 2010 and nothing was done.
Here we are in 2011 and the public knows some of what happened, but it's being downplayed in the local media as if it were no big deal and just another fading headline.
Both cities were (and still are) consciously choosing to risk the well being of their people (residents, tourists, wildlife, business people and employees).
Being Gatlinburg's sewer plant capacity is at 5 mill per day – if it rains or tourism continues to thrive, the plant is forced to hold the water in holding tanks until the plant can get to it.
If it continues to rain or snow or new tourism continues to enter the area and the plant is over capacity, they are forced to bypass the plant altogether. This equates to removing the solids and dumping the wastewater in the holding tanks directly into the river.
On April 5, 2011 the holding tanks were dangerously over capacity and Don and John were in the process of adjusting the valves on the tank to bypass the plant's operation. Did they need the approval of someone? Were they waiting on the approval? Whose approval? What took so long? They were too late.
One of the horrible details of this story is the fact that John's wife Brenda told the media that her husband feared the holding tank was cracking and that an accident would one day happen.
Here are a few more question before you look at the pictures: Why did the State not force and fine both cities into complying with the expansion plans? Why was the entire issue kept from the public? The answer I am getting is: "political power." That's all – nothing else. In other words: the State, too, chose to not exercise their power and mandate the changes because of the local political power in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. We are looking into the issue and plan to continue probing until all public questions are addressed and answered.
• City of Pigeon Forge Wastewater System Study - May 2003
• Needed Improvements
• Current and Future Flow Projections
• Optimum Performance Available with Existing Facilities
• Pigeon Forge Wastewater Treatment Plant Diagram
• Potential for Serving Additional Areas
• Interceptor Capacities and Peak Flow
• Analysis of Infiltration and Inflow
• Monitoring Program
• Wet Weather Peak Flow
• Broken Bell in City Park Sub Basin
• Capacity Management, Operation, and Maintenance I
• Capacity Management, Operation, and Maintenance II
• Evidence of Surcharging in Manhole
• Rapid Growth Areas
• Population Projections
• A State Proposal
• Smith, Seekman Reid, Inc. (SSR) Letter to City of Pigeon Forge
• Engineer's Preliminary Estimate of Project Costs
• Table of Contents I
• Table of Contents II
• Average Daily Flow in 2003 was 99% Capacity
• Recommended Capacity of New Plant
• West Prong of Little Pigeon River on TDE (303) d due to pathogens and sediment
• Recommendations of Study Discussed with City Manager
• in 2004 West Prong of Little Pigeon River Placed on TDE 303 (d) List of Impaired Streams
• Projected Cost
• Conclusion - Pigeon Forge to Exceed Capacity in Summer of 2007
• Meetings with TDEC
• Wastewater Flows Could Approach 12 Million Gallons Per Day
• Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Facilities Have Many Units Near the End of Useful Lives (1/13/05)
• Excessive Infiltration/Inflow in Both Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge Sanitary Sewer Systems A Concern of TDEC
• Recommended Solution
• Project Funding Concern I
• Project Funding Concern II
• Exhibit I - Parcel Information
• Dry Weather Flows Greater than 3.9 MGD in Four Instances Over Seven Years
• Meeting with Sevier County Highway Department
• West Prong of Little Pigeon River Impaired Due to Septic Tank and Inspection System Issues
Published April 9, 2011
Major Sewer Plant Accident In Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg Sewer Plant Update
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Wildlife and Human Health Risk
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