Saturday, February 28, 2009

Yeah, It Smelled BAD.

The Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District welcomed about 25 people to the Guthrie Water Quality Treatment Center this morning for a tour. It was part of an ongoing effort by District 12 Councilman Rick Blackwell to educate the public about the challenges involved in treating waste water in Jefferson County. They call it a "Water Quality Treatment Center" because that name paints a much prettier picture than what actually happens there. In a word, "disgusting". Another word would be "essential".

The conversion of seriously fouled liquid into water that can be safely discharged into a river is one of the things that makes civilized life in Louisville possible. It is also, perhaps, more complicated than you might ever imagine. After spending the morning at the facility, I have a better appreciation for the service provided by MSD. It has not, however, given me much faith in the bureaucracy's ability to explain to customers what it is doing with their money. The political aspect involved is very real and very discouraging. Out of the 25 or so in attendance, about a third had their own political agenda and, to a small degree, disrupted the tour in a search for answers to their personal problems with the agency. But this wasn't a discussion of the agency. It was a discussion of the service.

The process of waste water treatment is not something that can be properly illustrated by "dumbing-down". That fact makes it hard for MSD to interact with residents, particularly the residents living near a treatment facility or people that fear the expansion of one. This makes it important that each resident actively seek out information and educate themselves on the subject.

The Guthrie plant can handle tens of millions of gallons of raw sewage. Just bringing up the possibility of expansion sets off extreme paranoia, and as history has shown, for good reason. The fact is, people just do not understand the process, and until they do, MSD can expect challenge after challenge to any plans in Southwest Louisville, for good or ill.

They are trying, as evidenced by the tour. But there is no "try". Only "do". MSD has a long way to go in educating the public on the real issues, minus the politics. That, in a word, is "essential" too.


  1. This is great stuff you are doing! Keep it up!!! I put a few bucks in the tip jar for ya!

    Valley Station

  2. Considering the breadth and scope of responsibility of MSD which reaches border-to-border Jefferson County, touches every residence and business, operates under federal mandates and does so while responding to growth needs a 24/7 operation, an enormous task requiring outreach, education and understanding.

    Maintaining a healthy and constructive dialog as evidenced by the tour is a step in the right direction.

    Very informative and fair reporting.