Environment

Metropolitan Sewer District has delayed closing parts of two city blocks near Louisville’s downtown riverfront for construction on a sewage overflow project.

MSD originally planned to block sections of River Road, West Washington Street and Seventh Street until March of 2020 to drill a drop shaft to reduce sewage overflow into the Ohio River and Beargrass Creek.

But engineers recently learned of “potential alternatives” that could avoid the road closures altogether, said spokeswoman Sheryl Lauder.

“Some suggestions came to light on alternative sites that we did not have access to before,” she said. “There are several possibilities on the table right now that our engineering folks are looking at that will reduce the disruption to the community.”

Lauder declined to go into detail on what the new options are, but said they include moving the drop shaft location to other public or private private property.

Why has this information just come to light, given the extensive planning that’s gone into the larger project to stop sewer overflows?

“I don’t know why,” Lauder said. “But, you know, fortunately it came up before any ground was broken, so that’s the good part.”

Lauder said it’s probably a matter of weeks before MSD begins construction on the drop shaft that was originally planned in the median at Seventh and Washington streets.

The 200-foot drop shaft is necessary to help move waste and stormwater from the sewers to a massive underground storage tunnel MSD is building underneath the city.

Construction started in January on the so-called Waterway Protection Tunnel.

When complete, it will be 2.5 miles long, 20 feet in diameter and buried 18 stories underground.

In total, it will be able to hold 37 million gallons of sewage and stormwater, enough to fill 56 Olympic-size swimming pools.

It’s part of Louisville’s deal with the federal government to stop pouring raw sewage and stormwater into Kentucky waterways by 2020.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment reporter.