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Clean water advocacy group sues the City of Pulaski for sewage violations

PULASKI, Tenn. -- The City of Pulaski's water treatment plant has illegally discharged more than 31 million gallons of raw sewage into the water over the past five years.

The city self-reported the violations to the Tennessee Department of Conservation but hasn't cleaned it up. An environmental group is stepping and hoping to change the problem by filing a lawsuit against the city.

Tennessee Riverkeeper filed an intent to sue in May. In the intent, the clean water advocacy group said it would file a lawsuit if the city didn't clean the sewage in 60 days.

The group says the sewage wasn't cleaned.  Now, Tennessee Riverkeeper says they will continue to follow through with their promise.

The organization's founder, David Whiteside, states the Pulaski wastewater treatment plant is responsible for the millions of gallons of raw sewage spilled off into the water over the past five years.

During the period, the city was in violation of the Clean Water Act 122 times.

"The Tennessee Riverkeeper found all these sewage violations in the files of the Tennessee Department of Conservation and the City of Pulaski had reported these violations under federal oath to the Tennessee State Regulatory Agency and unfortunately they decided not to do anything about it for one reason or another," Whiteside said.

The majority of the 31 million gallons spilled February of 2018. The city claims it was due to heavy rainfall.

"That is an excessive amount of illegal sewage discharges for a municipality and that's part of why we have decided to follow through with the lawsuit," Whiteside said.

According to the advocacy group, the sewage spills into Richland Creek. The creek drains into the Elk River of the Wheeler Reservoir.

The Clean Water Act says if the government does not enforce the law, then citizens have a right to do so.

"I don't understand why the politicians and our state agencies are so complacent when it comes to raw sewage it's a non-partisan issue," Whiteside said.

Whiteside says the city never responded to Tennessee Riverkeeper's intent to sue. The Tennessee Department of Conservation said they were going to pursue formal action within the 60 days but Whiteside says they did not do so.

He says what's happening in Pulaski is excessive, but it isn't the only municipality in the area with illegal sewage violations.

Whiteside says that why the organization is vigilant about holding government bodies accountable.

WHNT News 19 reached out to the City of Pulaski for comment and city officials have not yet responded.