Council approves locations for sewer system tanks, county donates land for one

Emory Valley Road Sewer System Holding Tank

An earlier draft image of what a sewer system holding tank could look like on Emory Valley Road. (Image courtesy City of Oak Ridge)

CLINTON—The Oak Ridge City Council had already taken steps to move the planned sewer system holding tanks farther back from major roads or make them less visible, and on Monday, the Anderson County Commission agreed to donate a small parcel on Emory Valley Road for one of the tanks.

Oak Ridge officials have said the tanks are needed to help comply with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency order that requires the city to end all sewer system overflows by September 2015.

Oak Ridge Public Works Director Gary Cinder has said the holding tanks—officially called equalization basins—are required at critical locations to detain extra water flows during heavy rains to comply with the EPA order. Locations for all three were approved during a City Council meeting on Monday, Sept. 9, and land for the one on Emory Valley Road was considered by County Commission this Monday.

That tank would be built on a roughly one-acre tract donated by Anderson County on the east side of the former Daniel Arthur Rehabilitation Center on Emory Valley Road at Fairbanks Road.

A second tank would be built near the intersection of South Illinois Avenue and Scarboro Road, just down the street from the main entrance to the Y-12 National Security Complex. To make that tank less visible, the City Council last week approved a plan to buy the Mullins Performance Car Wash, demolish it, and build the tank farther back from the road.

Cinder said buying the car wash property could cost about $100,000, but the tank could be taller and smaller in diameter at that location, improving its construction and saving about $100,000.

Still, a few Council members said they opposed using public money to put the tank on what is now private property.

Council member Trina Baughn said she couldn’t support using taxpayer money to buy public property, and Council member Anne Garcia Garland said the city was missing an opportunity to view the tank as an opportunity rather than a detriment. Echoing suggestions of others who have proposed painting murals on the sides of the tanks, Garcia Garland said Oak Ridge could use the tanks as a canvas to “say something amazing and beautiful about this town.”

Voting in favor of the plan to buy the Mullins car wash and build the tank there were Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan, Mayor Pro Tem Jane Miller, and City Council members Charlie Hensley and Chuck Hope.

“We’ve got too much going on in that corridor,” Beehan said, explaining why he wanted to put the tank farther away from the road and the high-visibility intersection.

Voting against the plan were Baughn, Garcia Garland, and Council member David Mosby.

A third tank would be built in an isolated, industrial area off Cairo Road in east Oak Ridge, and there has been little concern about the location or visibility of that tank.

The tanks could store between one and two million gallons of a mix of storm water and sewer. It’s technically considered sewage, but it is predominantly storm water that has leaked into the sewer system and exceeded its capacity to carry to the treatment plant, Cinder said recently.

The tanks could be emptied within a few days after a heavy rain as capacity in the downstream sewers becomes available.

Cinder said has building the tanks and their associated pump stations could cost about $6.5 million, Cinder said.

The tanks on Emory Valley Road and Scarboro Road at South Illinois Avenue could be more than 100 feet wide and 18 to 27 feet high.



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  • Ellen Smith

    Thanks to the county for donating the land for this public need. Not many things that city government does are truly more important than making sure that the stuff we flush down the toilet doesn’t come back up somewhere else in town.

  • Sam Hopwood

    Thanks to those council members who voted against taking tax paying property off the tax rolls. Not too hard to tell which council members are concerned with fiscal responsibility in Oak Ridge.

  • Jason Allison

    I can really see the big concerne over what is either unused or very little used property. For those people who are so worried about the Mullins property, what is your suggestion? Shall the city build the tank in the median next to the traffic light control box? The suggested site is killing two birds with one stone. One being a property that is not used (I’d like to see someone show otherwise) and two it is freeing this land for further development.

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