City: Progress of leak repairs ‘remarkable,’ but still has a ways to go

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- On Thursday, we learned more about the progress to repair three leaks that all took place within only three weeks of each other, sending millions of gallons of raw sewage into local waterways.

First there was a major sewer line break into Cypress Creek near McKellar Lake on March 31.

People were warned to stay out of the water and to not eat the fish.

Officials said it was the heavy rains that caused the break.

Just a few days later, a second leak was reported but was quickly fixed.

Then, on April 19, the city said it was making emergency repairs to a line break near the Loosahatchie River.

On Thursday, officials from the Public Works Department called its own progress "remarkable," but admitted there's still a lot of work to be done.

"We have recently received bids for the repair for the 96 inch in Cypress Creek. The estimated low bid was $5.6 million dollars," said Public Works Director Robert Knecht.

But while a bypass has been in place, the work to actually repair the sewer break at McKellar Lake still hasn't started.

"We are working in effort to get the contractor underway to begin repairs."

But any plan will have to be approved by the state.

The Division of Water Resources laid out a to-do list for the city which requires the state's oversight.

"We're required to submit plans and get a permit from them to perform the work."

"We are working with the city on the remediation plan. There have been communications daily," said Ronne Adkins with TDEC.

From a budgetary standpoint, the city said it's still on track for an overall repair cost of between $8-$10 million, and it's timeline is still to have repairs made within 6 months.

The state said its continuing to monitor water quality levels.

E. Coli levels are reportedly going down, but the water is still not safe for recreational use.

Public Works said work is still underway to check all other sewer lines to ensure there are no other weak points or repairs needed.

One area, at the Wolf River near McLean hadn't failed, but was identified as needing some repairs.

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