Environment

A stormwater storage basin in Louisville’s Smoketown neighborhood will be redesigned mid-construction at an additional cost of $4.8 million. The Metropolitan Sewer District Board voted unanimously Monday to authorize the changes, which came in response to community concerns about the project.

The basin in Smoketown is one of 12 that will eventually be built around the city. All are part of Louisville’s federal consent decree; the city is required to address the consistent problem of sewage overflows into the Ohio River. The Smoketown basin was the first project planned, and is the furthest along in construction. But so far, all of the other basins will be buried below grade and covered with green space. The MSD’s plans originally intended for the Smoketown basin to be covered with a windowless one-story brick building.

After questions about the MSD’s public outreach procedures and unequal treatment, both MSD Director Tony Parrott and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer expressed support for exploring changes to the basin. At Monday’s meeting, the board unanimously approved the change order, which will cover the basin with an at-grade cover, and raise the basin’s total cost to about $48 million.

MSD spokesman Steve Tedder said the cost for the Smoketown basin would still be in the same range of the projected cost of the other basins. All the basins are in various stages of planning, which makes it difficult to estimate final costs, he said. Another complication is that all the basins are different sizes, and the various locations also represent different costs in land acquisition, for example.

After the unanimous vote, MSD Board chair Cyndi Caudill said she was pleased with the change, and saw it as a worthwhile investment.

“The voices of the community have been heard and as a board, we should be responsive as we can to our community needs while continuing to be good stewards of our ratepayers’ money,” she said. “I’m glad we can respond to the needs of our citizens as well as meet our objective to provide safe, clean waterways.”

The change to the basin represents a win for the citizens’ groups who opposed the original plan. But there are still outstanding concerns about the basin’s construction. Immediately after the change was approved, Metro Council candidate Barbara Sexton-Smith addressed the board, sharing information she gathered while campaigning in the Smoketown and Paristown Pointe neighborhoods.

“I’m here today to talk about something that I call unintended, unfortunate consequences,” she said. “And sometimes when we solve problems and have opportunities, other problems arise.”

Sexton-Smith showed the board pictures of homes with extensive cracks, both inside and outside, that homeowners said was caused by the blasting at the Smoketown basin.

Caudill asked Sexton-Smith to provide MSD with a list of the affected homeowners, and said the agency would investigate the situation.