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VOL. 133 | NO. 47 | Tuesday, March 6, 2018

City Weighs New Sewer Connections in Cordova, Bartlett

By Bill Dries

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As the city of Memphis continues to upgrade sewers and ban new sewer connections in unincorporated Shelby County, capacity issues at a sewer basin affecting Cordova, parts of Bartlett and Lakeland has prompted the city to take a case by case approach to new sewer connections. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)

The city of Memphis’ policy of no new connections to the city’s sewer system for unincorporated Shelby County got the attention of local developers last week.

Emails about the cutoff would have extended to new development in Cordova and nearby parts of Memphis, as well as about 70 percent of Bartlett and 20 percent of Lakeland because of capacity issues.

But city chief operating officer Doug McGowen said Tuesday, March 6, the concerns haven't prompted a cutoff policy.

“It was erroneously conveyed to some individuals through someone in City Hall who said the city of Memphis will not entertain any new connections," McGowen said. "That is in fact not the case. We are gong to do it on a case by case basis as new developments come on."

Bartlett and Lakeland have separate evergreen agreements with the city of Memphis for sewer capacity.

The cause of concern is a sewer basin in the Fletcher Creek area that has a “capacity issue,” according to a February email to Memphis City Council members from city public works director Robert Knecht.

“We identified this issue last year when a large development in Cordova was presented to us,” Knecht said in a Feb. 27 email to council members Kemp Conrad and Frank Colvett confirming that the entire sewer basin has a “sanitary sewer capacity issue.”

“We are conducting a flow monitoring study of the sewer system basin to determine if there is any excess flow available,” Knecht said, detailing the city’s move to put 15 monitoring devices in sewer lines to determine flow. The results of that study are expected in August.

He also outlines a long-term solution to expand capacity with a parallel sewer pathway to the Wolf River main interceptor the city operates. That is expected to take two to three years and cost $8 million to $10 million.

The city is also having discussions with the Tennessee Department of Transportation about using an Interstate 40 right of way in some way.

Josh Whitehead, planning director and administrator of the Memphis and Shelby County Office of Planning and Development, said in the email chain to Knecht and Conrad that OPD had been “flooded with phone calls and emails” since the first alert seeking clarification on what the action specifically applied to.

The city is in the midst of more than several hundred millions of dollars in sewer system renovations over several years, some mandated by a federal consent decree that goes toward capacity and other issues. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland's decision last August that the city would not take any new sewer connections outside Memphis was in part a response to capacity concerns. But it was also meant to encourage developers to look within the city limits instead of developing outside the city.

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