Environment

Louisville’s Metropolitan Sewer District has officially cut the ribbon on a large overflow basin in the city’s Smoketown neighborhood. The Logan Street Combined Sewer Overflow Basin was originally designed to be covered by a block-long brick building, but after community outcry the design was modified.

Today, an open field covers the basin, with a few small structures on it.

“Anytime there’s a green space in a community it’s wonderful for a place to enjoy, come together,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer at the ribbon-cutting Tuesday. “It will increase property values in the neighborhood. It’s great to have a wonderful new park-like setting right here, and it’s great to see it happening right here in the Shelby Park and Smoketown area.”

A Solution For Sewer Overflows

The Logan Street Basin is one of twelve that will ultimately be built in Jefferson County. This particular basin can hold 16.7 million gallons. Right now, during large rain events, a mixture of storm and waste water overwhelms parts of the city’s sewer system, and ends up releasing untreated water into the Ohio River and its tributaries. These basins are part of the city’s solution to the problem: they will hold large amounts of water until rain events are over, then pump the water to treatment plants. They’re part of the $900 million federal consent decree that is scheduled to be finished by 2024.

“This basin will allow us to capture about 98 percent of that overflow and it will help us to keep the waterways safe and clean here in Smoketown and in other parts of our city,” said MSD Executive Director Tony Parrott.

But the Logan Street project was very nearly something totally different. It was designed to fit in with the industrial-looking warehouses that once crowded Smoketown. But by the time ground was broken in 2016, neighborhood residents chafed at the idea that other communities would be getting basins covered by green space, while they would get a windowless brick structure.

In March 2016, the MSD Board voted to allow the district’s staff to explore other options for the Logan Street Basin. At the time, the decision to cover the basin with green space, rather than a building, was estimated to add about $5 million on to the project’s cost.

At the ribbon-cutting, Pastor Bruce Williams of the nearby Bates Memorial Baptist Church said the Logan Street Basin is proof that community voices are instrumental in determining the fate of a community — and that public officials would do well to listen to them.

“It is always a good thing when public officials and those who have been tasked with the responsibility of public good to respond to the residents and believe that those residents know what’s in their best interest. So, it’s a good day.”

Now that the project is finished, MSD will transfer the site to the Louisville Metro Housing Authority, which will maintain it. LMHA will work with the community to develop a plan for the public use of the property, according to a news release.

WFPL’s Amina Elahi contributed to this story.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's News Director.