Wastewater a Development Issue
Truth be told, the federal government has already been quite generous in neglecting to enforce water quality regulations. Technically, they could fine the city and county thousands of dollars every day our creeks run cloudy. Instead, they have only asked us to remedy the problem. Is it really fair to ask them to pay for the remedy?
The sewer problem has gotten out of hand mainly because KUB, MPC0 and Knox County had other priorities. The millions spent building new sewer lines for our sprawling suburbs could have been used to maintain existing infrastructure if only county officials could muster a little restraint in permitting new subdivisions.
Imposing impact fees on new development would also help pay for maintaining the existing utility infrastructure, and it would steer developers toward more sustainable growth by making brownfield development and renovation competitive alternatives to sprawl. KUB has been subsidizing developers for decades, and we should look to developers, not the federal government, for solutions to the wastewater management problem.
MP Off Base on KUB
Assumption one: The Feds need to bail us out.
The assumption implies that we as a community are being asked to pay for something we can’t afford. We can afford it. Currently, Knoxville pays the lowest wastewater fees in the nation. The two 50 percent increases will not even get us to the national average. When we use federal tax dollars to fix KUB’s problems, we are creating a system that will keep taxing Knoxvillians to fix everyone’s problems throughout the country. How fair will it be to not have overflows but still be taxed to pay for Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, Atlanta, NYC, and Baltimore? Knoxville’s best deal is to pay for its own problems and let everyone else pay for theirs.
Assumption two: It’s not KUB’s fault.
KUB knowingly violated the Clean Water Act over 1,000 times in three years. That’s what we say in all of our literature. During the negotiations we found out it was far worse. If 1,000-plus violations are not the fault of KUB, whose fault is it? They assumed responsibility for the system and then did nothing but pat fixes to the system until they were forced to in 2004, when they saw the lawsuit heading for them. I fail to see why there should be any sympathy for KUB. The question is why didn’t KUB fix the system? For the very same reason that you espouse a federal bail out—so we don’t have to pay for a service we use every day. KUB kept rates flat for seven years, bragged about it and even received an award for their innovative management. Meanwhile, Knoxville streets ran in sewage.
Assumption three: KUB has been working all along to fix the problem. Not true. They may have disconnected the combined sewer system as your editorial notes, but that is not the same as fixing the deteriorated trunklines. KUB had 18 years to fix the sewer system. What took them so long?!
Some factual errors you mention in your editorial:
The second TDEC agreed order shortened the sewer rehabilitation schedule—wrong. But it did provide a number of loopholes for KUB to sneak through regarding notification of the public in the case of a public health threat, reducing requirements for reporting, and giving KUB a fine that became an opportunity for self-promotion.
City of Knoxville sued and was joined by TCWN—wrong. TCWN sued, the city of Knoxville joined the negotiations and then joined the lawsuit. Long after DOJ overfiled.
City of Knoxville and TCWN sued over agreed order provisions —wrong. TCWN sued over Clean Water Act violations of two pollution permits. The state of Tennessee illegally prohibits citizens’ suits. We could never have sued over the agreed orders.
Federal EPA stepped in—wrong. Department of Justice overfiled our case, brought in EPA Region IV and dragged TDEC to the table. The TDEC second agreed order was illegal.
Under Mintha Roach, KUB is a very different animal. But it still must pay for the sins of its past. The change of leadership is a breath of fresh air, but when we air the past we must cling to the truth.
Renée Victoria Hoyos
Lord, Civilize Us
I noticed, however, that when help finally did arrive that these people were not being charged for their needed medical care. No one stopped them before receiving treatment and said, “Your co-payment for this treatment is $100,” or, “I’m sorry, but without insurance you’re going to have to pay up front.”
My question is this: What makes health care a human right in the midst of an emergency like Katrina, but not in the regular course of life? Can anyone explain to me the logic that says humans have the right to health care only in the most dire of circumstances?
America is the only Western country that does not consider health care a human right. In my opinion the current policies regarding medical care in our country do not promote the kind of civilized society we need. In some areas of life compassion must come before competition: it should not take the horrors of this past week to point this out to us. Last week President Bush pointed to the Red Cross as the first point of contact for a “compassionate response,” a plain admission that this administration feels no urgency to respond first (or with compassion) in the face of tragedy.
Our lack of social safety-nets ultimately costs us more than it saves us, for we realize, only too late, how brutal life becomes when it is “every man for himself.” We must face the reality that the Bush tax-cuts mean that people literally die in our country for lack of base-line human services that governments should rightfully provide.
This past week the Republican mentality of “take care of business first, and people will eventually get what they need” failed thousands of the poorest among us in New Orleans. It is time that this country deeply contemplates the kind of civilization it wishes to become. Those of us who are Christians, like myself, know that Jesus said a great deal about compassion, loving our neighbors and enemies alike, and sacrificing for others; he said absolutely nothing about competition and big business. Treating health care as a commodity rather than a human right is profoundly uncivilized (and un-Christian), and it’s time to correct this attitude in America.
John G. Rumple
On Picking Knoxville
Perhaps Ms. Hudson’s idea of “something to do” is Rodeo Drive type shopping (not Knoxville’s forte), but if she were serious about just finding something to relieve her boredom and ennui, Knoxville offers a disproportionate array of “things to do” for a city its size.
So, I guess our official position will be, yeah Kate, there’s nothing to do. Stay home.
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