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County addresses stormwater

The stormwater ordinance Knox County plans to adopt is sufficient to meet state minimum requirements, but cost and funding for the measure has yet to be determined.

This was the main thrust of comments AMEC unit manager Mary Halley made to Knox County commissioners in a special meeting Monday, March 25.

“The regulations prior to what you have here now focused on drainage control,” Halley said. “Largely, storm-water regulations in the past focused on water quantity control, not


The ordinance Knox County officials are suggesting be adopted, she said, meets requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Program, or NPDES, which is authorized by the Clean Water Act.

Knox County was issued an NPDES permit in 2003, she said. In 2005, Knox County adopted an ordinance similar to the one used by the City of Knoxville.

Halley said Knox County is currently under the jurisdiction of an NPDES Phase II permit, which requires erosion and sediment control during construction and requires controls for after construction.

“This is a big change,” she said. “You have to prevent or treat water quality after


This means the county must develop a program to monitor water quality as well as pollutant discharge and private stormwater facility maintenance.

Halley said a program has to be put in place to monitor after construction water quality and report the findings to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

Failure to implement such a program could result in daily fines from TDEC of up to $10,000 per day, fines that could be paid through taxpayer money.

Halley said TDEC has come in to audit the county’s stormwater management program since its implementation in 2003.

“No violations were issued, but they did note some deficiencies,” she said. “They understood this was a difficult thing of the county to implement in such a short time.”

The proposed stormwater ordinance the county is considering for adoption, she said, deals with the deficiencies noted by TDEC.

Commissioners and some of the 50 residents in attendance had a chance to ask questions of Halley and Knox County Director of Public Works Bruce Wuethrich.

“When you talk about stormwater, I’m one of those whose eyes glaze over,” Commissioner Mike Hammond, District 5A, said. “I’ve heard costs of sixty to seventy to eighty million to implement this program. Any idea where those numbers came from?”

Wuethrich said the Knox County Stormwater Advisory Board, commissioned to examine the stormwater management program, was given total cost estimates for items, including capital projects. He assumed that’s where the numbers came from. No estimates on stormwater implementation have been developed.

“I do know we have to adopt an ordinance,” Wuethrich said. “If we don’t, the cost could be ten thousand a day.”

Commissioner Mark Harmon suggested Wuethrich expand the definition of wetlands in the ordinance to include the definitions used by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Resident James McMillan took commissioners to task to the scope of the ordinance.

“Today everyone’s talking about minimum standards,” he said. “Knox County promised the citizens a Cadillac ordinance. This ordinance doesn’t address the problem of urbanization.”

He said if commissioners passed the proposed ordinance, it would deliver a message to residents who live in watersheds that they could expect to see more damage from stormwater.

Jamie Rowe, a member of the Stormwater Advisory Board, expressed concern the sinkhole portion in the ordinance would negate the already strict policy the county has toward dealing with sinkholes.

Citizens who wish to be heard on the matter can reach county officials via e-mail at or leave a voice message at 865-215-4418.


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