LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Major repairs are needed to prevent a potential catastrophe in downtown Louisville, officials with the Metropolitan Sewer District say.

An underground sewer pipe is causing the concern, a problem that exists even though no one can see it. And officials say that until the pipe is repaired, thousands of businesses from Butchertown to downtown Louisville are at risk.

The pipe runs beneath Main Street and needs to be replaced after having ruptured multiple times. Tony Parrott, the executive director of MSD, said the problem is now a public health and safety issue.

"It is a pipe that runs anywhere between seven and 10 miles," Parrott said. "What we have decided is that we need to do the repair sooner rather than later."

The repairs will cost millions of dollars, but Parrott said doing nothing to a pipe that carries about 40 million gallons of sewage per day could cost more.

So MSD is asking for a rate increase.

"What we are asking for is for our board to be able to go above their board authority which is 6.9 percent," Parrott said. "So we are asking for an additional 3 percent."

Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith is co-sponsoring a proposed ordinance that would give MSD that extra 3 percent.

"We need to start doing this repair work before we have loss of life and critical loss of infrastructure facility," Sexton Smith said. "This is the largest system in our entire county, and it affects everyone that lives here, travels here and does business here."

Right now, the MSD board currently has the authority to raise rates 6.9 percent without approval from Louisville Metro Council. MSD has asked for the ability for the board to raise rates an additional 3 percent for four years, which would then drop back to the 6.9 percent.

Officials say that extra 3 percent is needed to get more room on the credit card. It will allow additional funds to go to the Critical Repair & Reinvestment Plan. For now, capital dollars are going to fund the required Consent Decree projects through 2024.

Here's an example of how the increase will change your bill:

  • Current monthly charges
    • $46.87 sewer
    • $9.26 drainage
      • Total $56.13
  • The 6.9 percent for the current year is an increase of $3.87 per month
    • $50.10 sewer
    • 9.90 drainage
      • Total $60.00
  • The 9.9 percent for the current year is an increase of $5.56 per month
    • $51.51 sewer
    • $10.18 drainage
      • Total $61.69

Meanwhile, crews are closing south side parking and four feet of sidewalk this week on Main Street between Fourth and Seventh Streets. MSD plans to start the repair work after the Kentucky Derby.

It is expected to take several months to complete the project.

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