Knox County Reviews Stormwater Plan

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Knoxville (WVLT) - A review of Knox County's plan to reduce flooding and water pollution from storm water run-off resulted instead in a discussion of what material should be used for culvert pipes.

At Thursday night's meeting, representatives from the steel and plastics industry lobbied for a change in the consultants' storm water ordinance proposal.

Knoxville taxpayers paid nearly a million dollars to repair a storm water pipe that rusted and collapsed here at the Papermill Plaza shopping center in Bearden. Now, Knox County wants to avoid any similar costly repairs. As part of the Urban Growth Plan in 2001, the county agreed to develop a storm water ordinance "as strict as" the city of Knoxville's to stop run-off from polluting area creeks.

Consultants hired by the county say for that to happen, new construction and re-developments should, in most cases, use concrete pipe. Participants in a public forum debated using only one type of material.

"I guess what I'm failing to see is how storm water pipe material is tied in to run-off control and storm water quality," Contech representative Bobby Clemmer said.

Many who spoke say they prefer the county go with strength or durability standards instead of dictating a certain material.

"But you have to give professional engineers that are experts in this field the opportunity to use the best material in the certain application," forum participant Brent Brubaker said.

Several speakers say state and federal guidelines require contractors to consider alternative culvert pipe materials.

"They do allow corrugated steel pipe, they do allow high density polyethylene for most applications," forum participant Howard McGowen said.

So far, there's no set amount that improving the storm water ordinance will cost the county, but some officials are already predicting the cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Meantime, Knox County will move forward to put safe guards in place to avoid costly storm water flooding like the city experienced at Papermill Plaza.

The Knox County engineering department is planning four public meetings throughout the county to get input, before sending its storm water ordinance to county commission in May.

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