Main Street sewer line collapse prompts raw emotion from the MSD - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Main Street sewer line collapse prompts raw emotion from the MSD's chief engineer

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A hole in a sewer line brought traffic to a crawl heading into downtown Louisville and the Metropolitan Sewer District's chief engineer to tears. 

"We knew it was going to happen," said MSD Chief Engineer Angela Akridge.  "We just didn't know when."

Akridge warned of MSD's crumbling infrastructure in July during a public meeting on more funding. 

"Whose house is going to flood that can't afford it?" she sobbed. "Whose baby is going to be in a boat?"

On Wednesday, MSD closed main street between Clay and Jackson Streets, fearing a sinkhole. The leaking sewer line washed away all the dirt supporting the pavement. Akridge said there's a 10-foot gap. 

"When you think about what could have happened, it could have been a TARC bus, it could have been a school bus," Akridge said.

MSD has been campaigning for a $4 billion update to Louisville's wastewater, drainage and flood protection system. Akridge said the public doesn't see the problems underground until it's flooding or there's sewage dumping in the Ohio River.

"It's old, and they were not designed to last that long," she said. "The emotion comes from not being able to go fix it."

Wednesday's collapse may be a wakeup call for some in the public.

"It just created a firestorm of traffic here, so it's a nightmare," said Ted Mitzlaff of Goodwood Brewing Company. 

Goodwood's taproom sits at the corner of Clay and Main Streets right at the MSD road closure. 

"Normally, Wednesday is our biggest day during the week ... and our taproom was totally empty." Mitzlaff said. "If the head of MSD is ringing the bell and then something like this happens, he's not crying wolf." 

MSD Executive Director Tony Parrott said the problem is more widespread than is generally known, with smaller collapses happening all across the city two or three times a week. Parrott called Wednesday's cave-in a "catastrophic failure."

But those words have not detoured the utility company's detractors. Jessica Green is one of several Louisville Metro Council members who shot down the increase.

"Every time we turn around, there is a new fee," she said.

Customers' bills would have jumped $10 to $12 a month if the MSD got the 20 percent increase it requested. Green said that monthly increase could mean the loss of daycare, food, electricity and medicine to people just barely making ends meet. She said MSD and the city should have, "more skin in the game."

"For me or anyone to be told they cannot do anything less than 20 percent to keep us safe is wholly unacceptable," Green said.

For now, it's another patch repair, one that will require $500,000 at least to fix and reopen Main Street.

Akridge said her tears are not out of pain rather fear and frustration.

"Because if we don't do the work, we are putting (the public) in harms way," Akridge said.

MSD did approve a 6.9 percent rate hike last month, driving up customers' bills $3 to $4 on average. 

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