Fix our sewage city

Louisville needs to get past this November’s election so the Metro City Council can approve a plan to fix the city’s sewers. Our sewers cannot be used for political posturing.

Among the challenges facing the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District are keeping our ancient sewers from collapsing, which is already happening, and keeping our sewage out of the Ohio River, from which we drink.

As the cover story in this issue of LEO illustrates, the Ohio River is critically important to the city’s physical health as well as its ecologic and economic health. After all, the Ohio River is why Louisville is here in the first place. But it’s under attack by pollution and deregulation of environmental protections, further contaminating the river that passes by our city and warps the wildlife that lives in and around the river.

OK, so you don’t regularly fish for your meals in the river. What about the WFPL headline, “MSD Dumps Nearly 600 Million Gallons Of Sewage Into Ohio River During Flash Floods”?

The The MSD has identified $4.2 billion of fixes over the span of the next 20 years. Delaying will only make the fixes harder… and more expensive. We have delayed long enough.

Mayor Greg Fischer has already agreed to a bipartisan proposal that is still before the Metro Council. His Republican challenger for mayor, Councilwoman Angela Leet, needs to decide, if elected, whether she can work with a Democratic majority in the Council to raise rates and fix the problem.

The bipartisan, $4.2-billion plan would include 10-percent rate hikes over the next four years, to pay for repairs to flood pumping stations, sewer lines and other projects, according to the Courier Journal.

That was a year ago.

Since then, we have endured the wettest February in history, including a massive flood and had two “‘top 10’ rain events” in a single month this summer, according to a WFPL story. Given the recent United Nations report on climate change — as well as the consensus forecast of over 99 percent of scientists worldwide — life is going to get a lot wetter, which means flooding.

At their first debate, Fischer pointed the finger at political infighting that stalled the action in the Metro Council, but he said he was confident that we’d see movement after the election. Metro Council members pointed their fingers back at the mayor, blaming his leadership for inaction.

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Elections have that effect on elected officials.

Leet acknowledged that serious issues face the MSD. Citing her engineering background and thesis project on MSD, she has “a great knowledge and background about what afflicts MSD.”

Her expert solution?

Conduct an audit of MSD. Not take action, but in the face of sewer cave-ins and floods, she is raising suspicions about the MSD’s accounting (which is not engineering). According to Leet, “I am not confident that they have been truthful about the story, and we need an audit before we increase taxpayer rates.”

She also tried to insinuate that after rate increases, each household would owe $20,000. She said in the debate, “If I do a back of the napkin type of calculation, that is about $20,000 per household in this community over the next 20 years.” I’m not sure what drink she had on top of this napkin, but she either doesn’t know how MSD rates work and how financing works, or Leet is misstating facts to scare voters.

The question is simple, councilwoman: As mayor, what would you do to repair crumbling sewer infrastructure?

MSD has identified six core problems facing our city. Anyone, including Leet, can see the six issues and the estimated cost to address each at louisvillemsd.org/CriticalRepairPlan.

It would be great if we could assign the largest fees to those who just received huge bonuses from President Trump’s tax cuts, because they can afford to contribute more.

Or what about including restoration of the city’s tree canopy in the plan, which also could help stem drainage?

We cannot wait. Our leaders need to be ready to act as soon as this election is over.

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