MSD History


The History of the Metropolitan Sewer District

The history of Louisville MSD officially began in June of 1946 when it was created as a public body corporate and subdivision of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. In November of the same year, the agency took possession of a fragmented sewer and drainage system that had been constructed piecemeal to accommodate nearly a century of rapid growth by the thriving port city.  

In these early days, MSD’s task of planning – as well as repairing and addressing existing problems that plagued much of the aging, primitive sewers – was ambitious to say the least. But the organization shared a vision to improve the quality of life across our community through innovation, technology – and a commitment to protecting our waterways; that vision continues to this day.

1800 – The Legacy
Early Louisville was a bustling port city whose rapid population growth led to health issues caused by lack of adequate sewer and drainage capacity, earning Louisville the infamous nickname “The Graveyard of the West.”

1946 – Getting Started
The Metropolitan Sewer District was formally created at the end of WWII – but its formation was not without controversy. Then came the mammoth task of repairing substandard sewer and drainage fixes from decades before. 

1948 – The Hard Work Begins
Decades of unchecked pollution by multiple states had left the Ohio River a 981-mile open sewer. A treatment plant had to be built – but not before addressing the expanding needs of post-war suburban expansion. 

1956 – The Challenges Increase 
MSD’s first dozen years were marked with successes, including the completion of the first section of the Ohio River floodwall. But as the city incorporated more than two dozen suburban cities into Jefferson County, MSD’s mission became larger and more complex. 

1965 – The Environmental Era 
Suburban expansion continued to boom – all while urban renewal efforts and stricter environmental regulations impacted MSD’s revenue and operations. Enter Morris Forman, the civil engineer who would become known as “Mister MSD.”

1972 – A Time of Crisis
A tumultuous decade – both nationally and locally, including a powerful tornado that swept through the city – derailed critical MSD programs, and unforeseen problems at the Morris Forman treatment facility created a crisis of public confidence.  

1983 – The Turnaround
A devastating flood in 1983 led to a complete loss of public confidence in MSD. The need to regain trust was imperative, so MSD sought to involve the public by holding open forums and naming a Strategic Planning and Finance Committee made up of citizens and elected officials.  

1985 – Metropolitan Services
By the end of 1983, there were 96 different cities in Jefferson County, each with its own government, drainage responsibilities and some with their own sewer systems. In 1985, MSD took the lead in providing countywide drainage services. The move would bring big changes.   

1990s – The Busiest Years (so far)
The decade began with major drainage projects across the county. In addition to these issues, programs were now in place to deal with sanitary sewer services, infrastructure rehabilitation, and water quality programs, resulting in long-needed improvements in the community. 

Looking Ahead to the Future
While MSD’s first 75 years consisted of meeting large, fundamental challenges like building infrastructure to serve residents throughout the county, future work will focus on further protecting local waterways – and big-picture projects like regional watershed management.