MSD gives itself high marks in its 2011 performance report

We’ve said it before: if it weren’t for MSD, we’d be wading in waste. Before the treatment plant on Riverside Drive in Woodfin came online in 1967, untreated wastewater was discharged directly into local waterways. Large, sudden discharges can be serious: Last April, a massive sewage spill in Gatlinburg, Tenn., killed two workers and sent millions of gallons of raw sewage into the Little Pigeon River. Even the smaller spills can result in fish kills and other environmental damage, and can have negative health impacts.

The agency’s service area covers about 180 square miles; some 960 miles of sewer lines collect wastewater from an estimated 125,000 users in Asheville, Biltmore Forest, Black Mountain, Montreat, Weaverville, Woodfin and unincorporated areas.  Perhaps the biggest single challenge is getting sewage to the treatment plant without losing any en route. In 1990, MSD assumed ownership of a hodgepodge of smaller local collection systems; many of the pipes were between 50 and 100 years old and in dire need of replacement. Since then, the utility has undertaken an aggressive program to correct the inherited problems, and it’s made a considerable fiscal investment in the upgrades. Even so, the system overflowed 32 times last year — although that’s down considerably from the 288 releases tallied in 2000.

Sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) are accidental discharges that typically come during big storms. “The lines get so much [stormwater] coming in, they can’t handle any more. [If] the pipes aren’t large enough to handle that much flow … it’s gonna come out a manhole cover,” System Services Coordinator Ken Stines tells Xpress. But the rate of SSOs is down again this year compared to 2010: there were 24 spills in 2011, according to the MSD report, which covers the period between July 1, 2010, and June 30 of this year.

Cleaning up the water we all flush down the drain involves a reclamation process, and MSD measures its performance in part by the concentration of suspended solids in the water it “reclaims” during the treatment process. The utility removed 93 percent of the total suspended solids in its wastewater stream in the assessment period (up slightly from 90 and 91 percent in the previous two years); meantime, it maintained perfect compliance with the requirements of its state permit for allowable discharges into local air and water. (Air discharges occur when the utility incinerates the solid waste extracted during the treatment process.)

In 2011, for the eleventh year in a row, MSD won a National Association of Clean Water Agencies Peak Performance Award for excellence in environmental protection.

Read the full report here.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

One thought on “MSD gives itself high marks in its 2011 performance report

  1. Ashevegasjoe

    I spew tons of crap out for the public everyday, and I too give myself a passing grade

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.