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Crumbling Sewers, Flooding And Other Louisville Infrastructure Woes

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Crumbling Sewers, Flooding And Other Louisville Infrastructure Woes

Aging infrastructure — in Louisville and across Kentucky — was the topic of discussion on WFPL’s In Conversation Friday.

Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District Executive Director Tony Parrott provided an assessment of MSD’s infrastructure needs, and the ongoing effort to comply with a federal consent decree for a new system to address sewer overflows.

Parrott says it would take $4.3 billion over the next 20 years to bring all of MSD’s infrastructure up to date.

“We have several flood pump stations here in Louisville that need to be addressed immediately. The longer we push the risk down the road the higher the cost gets,” he said.

Also on the show were Arnita Gadson and Annie Haigler from the West Jefferson County Community Task Force, who talked about efforts to improve flood protection in hard hit west Louisville neighborhoods like Park DuValle, where Haigler lives.

“I’ve had to replace everything in my house three times now...walls torn down, house rebuilt, to no resolution,” she said.

Haigler says officials never addressed infrastructure problems years ago when a previous housing complex was built at the site.

Gadson, the group’s executive director, says appropriating government money for flood control is one thing, but officials need to make sure it gets to the right places.

“It looks good to say these things are coming down the pike, the money, billions of dollars, but if it doesn’t hit the affected community…..we’re not seeing that problem go away,” Gadson said.

Dr. Tom Rockaway, a civil and environmental engineering professor and director of the Center for Infrastructure Research at the University of Louisville, discussed a new report card he helped compile that gives Kentucky’s infrastructure a grade of C-minus. He says the commonwealth and the rest of the country have fallen decades behind in infrastructure maintenance.

“A lot of times we get too good at what we do. We’re very used to having infrastructure work perfectly,” Rockaway said. “We don’t think about things until they go wrong, until it affects us in a very real manner, until we have to deal with the consequences of it. If we don’t see it or have to interact with it every day, or don’t think about whether those lights are going to come on, we really don’t give it a whole lot of attention.”

Join us next week on WFPL’s In Conversation as we discuss the Louisville Metro Police Department’s traffic stop policy.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly characterized the federal consent decree as working to separate the city's sewers. The decree is meant to address sewer overflows.

Rick Howlett is host of WFPL's weekly talk show, "In Conversation." Email Rick at rhowlett@lpm.org.