Overflows From County Sewers Drastically Reduced Since 1996 Consent Decree

David Denard, director of Jefferson County’s department of environmental services. (Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

David Denard said overflow from Jefferson County’s wastewater treatment plant will never get down to zero. But the director of the county’s department of environmental services told commissioners at their committee meeting today that his department is trying to get as close to that mark as it can.

“We’ve reduced sanitary sewer overflows 60 percent the past six or seven years,” Denard said. “We’ve reduced our volumes by about 98, 99 percent. Last year, our overflow volume was about 8 million gallons. That’s a lot and it’s something we want to correct.

“But prior to the consent decree (in 1996), we were in the billions of gallons per year.”

Denard said Jefferson County has a 3,100-mile sewer system. “It’s impossible to keep everything to where there will never be any breaks,” the director said. “Our goal is to get as close to zero as we can. We depend (on) our residents to make sure that if they see an overflow, that they let us know. If they see a problem, please contact us so we can respond and correct an overflow as quickly as possible.”

Morgan Road

Commissioners moved the issue of the next phase of widening Morgan Road from Interstate 459 to South Shades Crest Road to the agenda of Thursday’s commission meeting. That next phase calls for approving $1,021,311 for construction engineering and inspection services.

Commission President Jimmie Stephens said the project is scheduled to be out for bids around June 26 with actual construction within 60 days of the bidding.

“Get ready,” he said. “It’s actually getting ready to occur and happen.”

Walker Chapel Road Bridge

Commissioners also talked about replacing and realigning Walker Chapel Road Bridge.

“It’s something that was needed and necessary,” Stephens said. “It’s our job as a county commission to create a quality of place to enhance the quality of life. We have to do that through our infrastructure improvements. You have to be safe traveling two and from work and school.”

The commission president said money for the road work comes largely from the passage of a school tax and the passage of an amendment that makes it easier for local bills, including a sales tax in Jefferson County, to be passed by the Legislature.

“We were able to recapture about half the money that we lost from the occupational tax,” he said. “We’re receiving $36 million. We’re utilizing $25 million of that for these road projects that help improve that quality of life.”

U.S. Steel

Commissioners discussed an amendment to the tax abatement agreement with U.S. Steel, based on the company changing the initial capital investment from $223 million to $412 million.

“They are putting some more equipment out there to help them be more self-sufficient and it’s almost doubling the capital investment that they’re doing out there,” commissioner Steve Ammons said. “It is a big deal. They’re there for the long haul. They call that arc furnace No. 1, and I don’t want to forecast, but we’re hoping there’s an arc furnace No. 2 and this will be a job developer for a long time.”

An arc furnace is a furnace that uses an electric arc as a heat source, especially for steelmaking.

Engaging Cities and Towns

Ammons’ office also made a presentation about engaging county municipalities.

“We want to make sure that we touch every municipality in the county to make sure that they know that the county is here to support them,” he said. “We want to make sure that we understand what opportunities they feel they have in their community.”

The development committee chair said everything in business sales is about relationships, building relationships and building a level of trust.

“We need to make sure that we’re building those relationships with elected officials or city leaders within their communities,” Ammons said. “Our purpose for economic development in the county is centered around jobs. We’re not there to really support another Hardee’s on the corner or Name-That Fast Food Restaurant on the next corner.

“We want to make sure the community knows that we’re there,” he continued. “The more people we know, the more connections we can make, raising economic development throughout the county.”