News | October 2, 2014

Giving the Harpeth a chance to heal

The Harpeth River southwest of Nashville suffers from high levels of nutrient pollution, which can lead to oxygen-starved conditions in which fish and other aquatic life can’t survive. To give the Harpeth a chance to restore itself, SELC took legal action against three sewage treatment plants that had not complied with their discharge permits, including occasional releases of excess pollutants and spills of untreated sewage.

After action on behalf of the Harpeth River Watershed Association, we reached a settlement with two of the wastewater treatment facilities whereby, in part, they will develop a pollution management plan and expand water quality monitoring of the river. The terms of the settlement address both future permit compliance and environmentally beneficial projects related to the identified violations.

But the city of Franklin has taken a different approach. Its treatment plant, the single largest source of wastewater pollution on the upper Harpeth, discharges up to 12 million gallons a day. In summer, when natural river flow is lowest and recreational use is highest, the Franklin discharge can account for a significant portion of the river volume just downstream, highlighting one reason strict compliance with all operational and discharge limits is important. SELC’s legal team is proceeding with litigation to address these ongoing problems.