200 million gallons of sewage dumped in MS River since plant failure

By Jessica Holley

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) –

City of Memphis has dumped approximately 200 million gallons of wastewater into the Mississippi River since Friday.

The city said it has no other choice but to pump the wastewater into the river after mechanical and electrical failures at a nearby water treatment plant.

Crews have replaced one of three broken pumps at the plant. The plant is now partially functioning, but much of the sewage must still be pumped into the river.

“The age of our facility, the high river situation, and the failure of some of those components, yes that was the perfect storm that led to this,” City of Memphis Director of Public Works Robert Knecht said.

The runway at General DeWitt Spain Airport remains closed. Sandbags and aqua dams line the runway and hangars in an effort to keep the sewage and floodwater at bay.

City of Memphis lowered its estimated cost from $5 million to around $2.5 million, but the city still expects the state’s Department of Environment and Conservation to fine the city for dumping wastewater into the river.

“There is going to be a penalty because we obviously aren’t discharging in compliance with our permit,” Knecht said.

At this point, the city said there is no evidence that dumped wastewater is impacting wildlife.

The swollen river, which was partially to blame for causing the problem, is actually helping now. That’s because the high volume of water is helping dilute the wastewater and disperse it from the area.

City of Memphis expects to have the plant fully functioning by the end of the week.