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Small Sewage Plant Demolition Marks End Of An Era For Louisville

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Louisville’s last small sewage treatment plant has officially been demolished, marking the end of a nearly four decades long effort to streamline Jefferson County’s wastewater treatment and improve water quality.

Metropolitan Sewer District officials gathered in the southern part of the county Thursday, next to the McNeely Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant. The plant — located in a residential neighborhood — is the last of more than 300 wastewater “package plants” that once dotted Jefferson County. Most were outside of I-264.

“A lot of those systems, not only in terms of age but in terms of technology, were not able to comply with the Clean Water Act, and some of them even caused leaks or issues that were impacting local streams throughout Jefferson County,” said MSD Executive Director Tony Parrott.

For the past forty years, MSD has been steadily eliminating the package plants, rerouting the waste to one of five larger regional wastewater treatment plants. These regional plants are more modern and less prone to leaks and failures. And for individual neighborhoods and watersheds — in this case, the Pond Creek Watershed — there’s less risk to people and the environment.

“This is a big deal for the community simply from eliminating the risk of a major failure here,” said MSD Director of Collection Systems Dennis Thomasson. “The second thing is the chlorine gas — we’re taking chlorine gas out of a neighborhood.”

The McNeely plant was the last of MSD’s treatment plants that used hazardous chlorine gas to disinfect wastewater.

Thomasson has been with MSD for 26 years and spent his whole career systematically getting rid of one package plant after another. He will retire on August 1. Before an excavator begins tearing at the McNeely plant, he goes and retrieves two small pieces of metal.

“These are patches that we welded on the aeration basin to prevent leaks,” he said. “So, as the metal’s deteriorated, we welded more metal on top of it.”

As temperatures rise, the excavator begins by tearing at a small cinderblock building sitting next to the treatment basins. The building crumbles like it’s made of building blocks.

At a house adjacent to the site, Angie Jones stands with her son, watching the demolition. She’s grown up in the same house, living there since the 1970s. The McNeely Lake plant predates her. She said there are sometimes odors and other inconveniences living next to a sewage package plant.

“Occasionally, here recently since they’ve been doing some work over there, it’s been pretty bad," she said. "So we’re kind of excited, I guess. But then again, it’s like, it’s been here forever.”

Eliminating the McNeely Lake wastewater treatment plant will cost MSD about $460,000. But overall, officials say upgrading and maintaining the facility would cost much more in the long run.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.