Gatlinburg sewage plant not up to specs

The Gatlinburg Wastewater Sewage Plant basin that failed recently leaving two dead did not follow exact design specifications, a forensic engineer said Monday.


The Gatlinburg Wastewater Sewage Plant basin that failed last week leaving two dead did not follow exact design specifications, a forensic engineer said Monday.

Working from a design by the former Flynt Engineering of Knoxville in 1996, North Carolina-based Crowder Construction did not follow initial plans to a T, said Hal Deatherage, a partner with Construction Engineering Consultants, an independent firm hired to determine why the basin’s wall collapsed April 5.

Veolia Water North America, the company that runs the plant owned by the city of Gatlinburg, gave Construction Engineering Consultants the basin’s initial design plans Friday when they had their first on-site meeting at the Banner Road facility, Deatherage said.

“I am certain there is one area I was concerned about on Friday that does not conform to the initial design,” Deatherage said.

He declined to be more specific, citing the ongoing investigation.

Charlotte, NC-based Crowder Construction Company builds municipal and industrial water and wastewater treatment facilities throughout the Southeast.

Deatherage who returned to the site Monday with his team to sample the fallen basin wall, said he told city of Gatlinburg officials it could take a month before his firm can determine what caused the basin to fail.

When the basin failed the morning of April 5 after a night of heavy rain, Veolia Water North America employees John Eslinger, 53, and Don Storey, 44, died after the basin wall collapsed and more than 2 million gallons of untreated sewage poured into the nearby West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. Officials cut off power to the plant after the wall crumbled, but they restored it the following night.

One day later, on April 7, city officials announced sewage was no longer going directly into the river untreated.

A Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation lab report released Monday showed water samples collected from the Little Pigeon River on Friday met water quality standards for recreation.

Samples collected two days earlier, on April 6, indicated high bacteria levels based upon “fecal coliform results,” the report reads.

“The restoration of operations at the wastewater treatment plant helped to improve water quality in a very short duration. However, TDEC wishes to maintain the water quality advisories issued last week as a precautionary measure. It should be noted that the affected waters have been posted against body contact recreation annually during the summer months since 1993. Additional sampling is planned.”

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