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Tell Franklin-Do Not Risk Drinking Water and Nashville’s State Scenic Harpeth River

This petition had 196 supporters

The Harpeth River, the state scenic river for the Nashville region of Tennessee, has been designated by American Rivers as one of 10 Most Endangered Rivers in the US this year.  It is one of the few free-flowing rivers in Tennessee and flows through one of the fastest growing and most desirable areas to live in the United States.  The future of the river’s water quality depends heavily on the city of Franklin’s sewer and drinking water decisions.   

Since the 1980s, Franklin’s reliable and cost effective drinking water supply comes from purchasing drinking water from a large utility on the Cumberland River.   Yet, Franklin clings to its past, wanting to overspend to keep its own tiny, outdated drinking water plant on the Harpeth even though the city’s plant can only produce enough for 8% of Franklin’s demand.  It costs more for the city to make its own water than to purchase it, and the proposed expanded plant costs over twice as much per million gallons to produce drinking water than the city’s primary supplier can produce water.   Why? Because the Harpeth is too small a river for even the city’s current tiny plant to be able to produce drinking water at the plant’s full capacity year round. 

               Instead of letting go of the past, Franklin’s overall plan is to “make the Harpeth bigger” in the summer by adding millions of gallons a day of treated sewer effluent to the river just upstream of the proposed new drinking water plant.  This “Toilet to Tap” component of the city’s plan is practically unknown to city customers and the public.  It’s not even remotely economically realistic since the proposed drinking water plant doesn’t even include the highly expensive treatment systems needed.  Franklin’s plan also means the Harpeth River through historic downtown Franklin could easily be over 40% treated effluent during the low flow, summer, season!

               Outside economic analyses and review of extensive city documents have revealed numerous errors, misuse of statistics, basic incorrect financial cost analysis, and other problems in Franklin’s reports and statements.  Franklin’s system demand is down 13.6% in the past 8 years and at nearly half the level used in the city’s projections.  On top of this, about 25% of this “demand” is actually LOST from leakages from the system!  This is much higher than common state standards around the country for losses to be 10%-15%, according to the EPA.  The city is losing nearly half a BILLION gallons of precious drinking water a year, more than it currently makes from its own plant on the Harpeth! 

               Franklin’s drinking water rates are actually the highest among comparable urban utilities that serve the greater Nashville area.  Also, Franklin’s recent rate increases are more from the city’s own costs than from price increases with its main supplier, contrary to city public statements.  

               On Tuesday, August 25, with only 5 days’ notice, the city senior staff want to have the Franklin elected officials vote to approve the proposed drinking water plant without any official public hearing or any updated cost analysis following standard financial principles.   

                 Tell Franklin to be conservative with the Harpeth, and stop wasteful government spending and unnecessary local government expansion.   Franklin’s sewer and water department does not have the right to decide the future of the State Scenic Harpeth River.  This huge decision that affects the greater Nashville region requires significant community input and rational decision-making.

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