Response to Recent Lawsuit

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In August of 2014 the Harpeth River Watershed Association filed a lawsuit against the City claiming we are in violation of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.  Below is a detailed response from the City regarding this lawsuit.

New! City of Franklin prevails regarding permit complaint from Harpeth River Watershed Association!  HRWA methodology found to be flawed! Read more here.

The Facts:

  • In recent years the City of Franklin wastewater utility has received NO notices of violation from state or federal regulators and there are NO situations of ongoing noncompliance.
  • The City is proud to serve our community’s infrastructure needs with high-performing water and wastewater systems that are heavily regulated by state and federal agencies (TDEC and EPA).
  • The City is ever-mindful of the City’s environmental stewardship responsibilities as demonstrated by a strong record of compliance, including water and river quality monitoring, and our 30-Year Integrated Water Resources Plan.
  • Planned upgrades to our Water Reclamation Facility will allow us to continue to outperform current and the anticipated more stringent water quality standards of the future as we serve our growing community.
  • Ratepayers/taxpayers of the City of Franklin should not have to shoulder the legal costs for unnecessary lawsuits.

Why did the other two utilities mentioned in the 60-day notice make settlements with the Harpeth River Watershed?

  • The City cannot address why two small sewage plants targeted by the HRWA chose to settle with the organization.
  • The City can tell you, however, that we have a high-performing system that operates in compliance with the stringent regulation of state and federal agencies. We have received no notices of violation from state or federal regulators in recent years, and there are no situations of ongoing noncompliance.

Examples of Franklin’s Stewardship

  • Franklin completed and is implementing a holistic 30-Year Integrated Water Resources Plan that is the first of its kind in the state of Tennessee and was developed by a wide range of stakeholders, including our state regulators (TDEC) and the HRWA.
  • The City of Franklin was instrumental in the removal of the lowhead dam on the Harpeth River that made it one of the few rivers in Tennessee that is entirely free flowing. This is just one example of our willingness to work with government agencies and environmental organizations that include the HRWA to improve stewardship of the river. Read more at:
  • Other examples of our stewardship of the river and its resources have included:
    • Restoration of a stream through Eastern Flank Battlefield to its original, historic alignment
    • Repair of a 116 million gallon raw water reservoir
    • Extension of sanitary sewers to more than 600 homes with aging and failing septic systems that represent a  significant threat to public health and the environment
    • Discovering and reporting the illicit discharges into the river by Egyptian Lacquer

Water Quality Monitoring

  • The City monitors both its own operations and the Harpeth River in many facets – for flow, health and abundance of “macroinvertebrate” aquatic life and oxygen content, just for examples. In addition, the City has submitted a plan to TDEC for continuous in-stream monitoring on which we await feedback from the department as required by our permit.

Regarding the state of impairment of the Harpeth River

  • Sections of the Harpeth River are indeed on the state’s list of water quality limited streams, which makes them a priority for water quality improvement efforts. In fact, the river is impaired before it reaches the City of Franklin.
  • The Harpeth River is a precious resource and we are ever-mindful of the importance of stewardship of this vital community asset.
  • That’s just one of the reasons the City takes pride in the fact that our Water Reclamation Facility consistently outperforms the regulatory limits set on it by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). The state’s permit establishes levels for discharged waters from the Water Reclamation Facility that – even if they were reached – would be protective of the Harpeth River.
  • Pasture grazing and land development in Williamson County are other leading cause of impairment for sections of the Harpeth River and its tributaries. The City’s stormwater regulations address land development impacts within the City’s jurisdictional area. There is no significant pasture grazing activity within Franklin’s City limits.
  • Those sections of the Harpeth that appear on the state’s list of impaired waters are categorized as “4A” for nutrients and low dissolved oxygen. The state applies category 4A only to those waters where all of the specialized studies (called “TMDLs” – which stands for Total Maximum Daily Loads) have been completed and approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address those pollutants.


    • Naturally found nutrients, such as nitrogen, are essential for plant and animal growth and nourishment, but an overabundance can impair rivers and streams. Nitrogen levels in the water released by our Water Reclamation Facility are controlled by state permit, and we consistently outperform our permit levels. Other sources of nitrogen in water are fertilizers (both chemical and organic) and animal manure, which run into nearby rivers and streams when it rains.
    • Oxygen dissolved in rivers is crucial for the organisms living in it. As the amount of dissolved oxygen drops below adequate levels, water quality is harmed and macroinvertebrates (small aquatic organisms) may become impacted. The City monitors the Harpeth River for health and abundance of macroinvertebrates and for oxygen content. The Harpeth is consistently healthier in these two regards below the point of the Water Reclamation Facility’s discharge than above the city’s water plant intakes from the Harpeth, which demonstrates just how well the WRF is performing.


  • Any wastewater collection system may occasionally experience sanitary sewer overflows due to a variety of factors, including excessive rainfall, grease or root blockages in the lines, illicit discharges, and instances of infrastructure failure or vandalism.
  • The City is fortunate that we perform 75-90% better than comparable and other systems in our region with a five-year average of 1.0 sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) per 100 miles per year. In our region, EPA defines a well-performing system as one with 5.0 SSOs per 100 miles per year.
  • The City is committed to continuing this exemplary record, and to responding to any overflow situation immediately and addressing its cause as quickly as possible. Our average response time is about 25 minutes.

Commitment to Transparency

  • Our City and our Water Management Department are run by professionals committed to openness and transparency. If you have any issues or concerns, they will be happy to address them. The facts matter, and we are committed to making sure our community has and understands them.

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