“Marshall County just set foot on the moon.”
That was one county official’s response to the news on Friday afternoon, upon hearing that the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation had approved the county’s permit to withdraw water from the Duck River.
The Board of Public Utilities, which oversees county water distribution, applied for the permit a little more than a year ago in an effort to expand the water supply available for the county.
The permit represents a first, but a very significant, step in that process.
“This is a huge positive step for the county,” said County Mayor Mike Keny. “We still have hurdles to clear but getting that piece of paper is big.”
BPU must still address further issues in the complicated process and receive permits from the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Growth in the county has been challenged over the past several years by the availability of water for new development and industry.
Certain water intensive industries cannot be pursued and there have been periods where residential construction has been halted due to uncertain water supplies.
Currently, the county has only one significant source of water, a 1940s tap into the Duck River through Lewisburg Water and Wastewater. Capacity from that source is capped at four million gallon per day.
The BPU has addressed some of the issues, especially in the northern part of the county, with projects increasing the capacity of the water lines heading up Verona Caney Road and Highway 31A.
Another short term solution has been an agreement with Rutherford County to purchase additional supply when needed, but the long term solution would be adding to the county’s own capacity, said Keny.
Discussions of expanding the county’s capacity have been ongoing for years, leading to the submission of the permit request.
“It took a whole team,” said BPU Director Tommy Whaley, “without that we don’t get this accomplished.”
“I’m proud of the job the Board of Public Utilities, Tommy Whaley, and Mike Keny have done for the citizens of Marshall County. This is a very big step toward positive growth. I’m just glad I could help a little,” said State Rep. Todd Warner, who delivered the permit from Nashville.
Plans for a water treatment plant adjoining the Duck River have been drawn up and land recently purchased for the project.
Initial capacity of the plant is estimated at two million gallons per day.
The TDEC approval to withdraw water from the Duck is a key piece to accomplishing that long term goal, but officials know there is a long way left to go.
“We can breathe when we get the sucker built and pulling water,” said Keny.