MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - It's a smelly problem that can't be ignored any longer.
"I mean we do have overflows. We have 2,800 miles of sewer lines and inevitably you're going to have some blockages and overflows," said Paul Patterson with Memphis Public Works.
Those overflows are costing the city and taxpayers. The federal government issued a $645,000 fine for overflows in Memphis.
"The fine is for what we call in the industry sanitary sewer overflow. If there's a blockage in the waste water collection system and we lose any waste water via manhole or any part of the collection system, federal law interprets that as a violation of the clean water act," said Patterson.
Now a quarter of a billion dollar sewer upgrade is fixing the problem. Its money is coming from sewer fees that customers already pay on their utility bill.
"If one would step back and look at what we're having to spend versus some of the other cities, I think that reflects the quality of our system. It's not to say that we do not have any problems at all, but ours are minor compared to many cities," Patterson said.
The city was forced to make changes after the EPA flagged Memphis for leaks and overflows that have fouled numerous streams and the Mississippi River.