City faces fines one year after massive sewage leak at McKellar Lake

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MEMPHIS, Tenn.-- Friday marks one year since some 350 million gallons of sewage contaminated McKellar Lake and Cypress Creek.

It cost the city of Memphis millions of dollars to fix and now WREG is learning that leak, plus another that was discovered on the Loosahatchie a few weeks later could cost the city more than half a million dollars in state fines.

Tenants at the Riverside Park Marina on McKellar Lake have also come together and said they are in class action litigation with the city.

They want to be compensated for the damages from the spill.

On Friday there was sunshine, clear skies and a light breeze. It was a perfect day to spend on the water.

"Come down here boat, fish, ski, swim, parasail," said Larry Stanley, owner of Riverside Park Marina.

Not the case this time last year when hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage poured into the area for days on end while the city scrambled to fix the problem.

It didn`t just damage the ecosystem, Stanley has felt it too.

"There was no business, there was no business," he said.

A year later, E. Coli levels are normal and Stanley is making improvements to his marina.

As we approach the summer season he`s staying positive but some 40 people involved in litigation who live and dock their boats off McKellar Lake say they aren`t pleased with how the city has treated them.

"Everything down here has sediment and staining from the sewage spill and it needs to be cleaned and the city has flatly refused to do it," said Gordon Grant, who docks his boat on the lake.

The city has been slapped with more than half a million dollars in fines from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Including more than $40,000 for the thousands of fish that were killed.

In a statement a spokesperson with TDEC said in part, "In addition to ensuring the city can prevent an event like this from happening again, we would prefer to work with the city to reinvest the penalty money from this incident back into Memphis for future projects designed to protect its environment and the health of its citizens."

When we asked the city public works department about the fines they told us they knew the fines were coming telling us, '"Any fines and penalties that the city ultimately agrees to pay TDEC in response to the order will be paid for entirely from the sewer fund and absolutely no general fund money will be used. The city is currently reviewing the order and reserves the right to appeal this matter, including any civil penalties."

However Grant, called a fines a slap on the wrist and thinks more should be done.

"That means virtually nothing. It should`ve been a $10 million fine. This was negligence," he said.

Grant says the tenants at the marina are in the mediation point of their litigation. There is no word for when they could come to an agreement.

Another point from the city made is that they said they worked 24/7 as soon as the problem was detected and they`re committed to sound engineering practices to protect the city.

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