Sanitary Sewer Expansion

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While the drainage program was being developed and the West County treatment plant was under construction, MSD took several major steps to make sanitary sewer expansion more attractive to prospective customers.

In 1985, the Board approved two new policies: guaranteed maximum assessments, and financial assistance for low-income customers.

A guaranteed maximum assessment would be the maximum a property owner would be charged for a share of the costs for building new lines to provide sewer service. The guarantees would be issued, in writing, before a sewer project began. If the project cost more than anticipated, MSD would pay the difference; if it cost less, the property owners would share in the savings.

The financial assistance plan provided several ways to ease the burden on low-income and elderly customers. The details would vary depending on the customer’s circumstances; in some cases, the assessments wouldn’t have to be paid until the property was sold.

In early 1986, the Board approved a new policy that would bring democracy to the expansion: All the property owners in the area covered by a proposed sewer project would vote on whether to go ahead with it. The votes would be taken after public meetings had been held to discuss a project and after the property owners had received their guaranteed maximum assessments.

(The exception, which would come into play several times in future years, would be when the health department would order sewers installed in an existing neighborhood because of health hazards caused by failing septic tank systems. In these cases, property owners would get guaranteed maximum assessments, but they would have no choice about getting new sewers.)

MSD's sanitary sewer network began expanding rapidly into the suburbs in the 1980s.  Here, pipes are lined up for the Southern Ditch No.1 interceptor; the line would take wastewater to the new West County Treatment Plant.
MSD Photo by Martin E. Biemer

The Action Plans

Working with the Environmental Protection Agency, MSD revised and updated the sewer expansion plans separately, and in stages.

The North County Action Plan, where residents were eager to do away with septic tanks and small treatment plants, was revised in 1985 and 1986. Plans for the treatment plant near Beargrass Creek were dropped, resolving an undercurrent of opposition that had been building for two decades. Instead, the wastewater would be pumped through two high-pressure sewer lines near the Ohio River to the downtown area, then flow through trunk sewer lines to the Morris Forman plant. The first construction contracts were awarded in 1990.

The West County Action Plan was divided into two subsections: the Pond Creek plan and the Mill Creek plan. The West County treatment plant was completed in November, 1986, four months ahead of schedule, and began treating wastewater that had been pumped to the Morris Forman plant. In the Pond Creek area, where small plants and septic tanks had created massive stream pollution problems, trunk sewer lines were being extended from the West County plant network. In the Mill Creek area, where opposition to sewers had been greatest, most planning and construction work was halted.

The Floyds Fork area was still mostly rural in the mid-1980s, but urbanization was increasing in the northern fringes. Subregional treatment plants — larger than small plants but smaller than the West County plant — were seen as the solutions to serve the different areas as they developed. The first would be the Cedar Creek plant, which was being designed in 1989.

The West County Treatment Plant opened in late 1986.  On dedication day at the left, MSD Board Chairman Gerald Neal (left), accompanied by Gary Ettel, MSD's urban area manager, looked over the plant from the top of a pump building.
Operator, Gene Harrison, inspects a sample of the clear, final effluent taken from the plant's chlorine contact basins.
MSD Photos by Martin E. Biemer

MSD History continued - Small Plant Acquisition