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Franklin’s Harpeth River treatment plant likely staying


After years of debate, Franklin leaders seem ready to keep the city’s longtime connection to the Harpeth River and upgrade its 62-year-old water treatment plant.

But how much Franklin leaders spend on improving the Lewisburg Pike plant and, in turn, how much the city’s 17,000 water customers eventually pay in higher water rates to cover that expansion hasn’t been finalized.

For years, Franklin leaders have wrestled — at times heatedly — about the plant and whether to try to expand its capacity. Today, the plant can treat little more than 2 million gallons of water a day from the river.

While Franklin leaders aren’t ready yet to support paying for its expansion, talk of improving the plant brought immediate support from aldermen during a recent discussion about its future.

“This is one of those things that we need to do,” Alderman Pearl Bransford said. “Nothing is going to be easy. … I, too, would like to see how this would affect our ratepayers.”

First built in 1952, the Franklin water treatment plant can treat 2 million gallons of water daily for the city’s use. To meet the city’s increased demands, Franklin buys more than 70 percent of its water from the Harpeth Valley Utilities District, which pumps water south from the Cumberland River and resells it to the city and various other utility districts.

Engineering consultants at Smith Seckman Reid Inc. have presented aldermen with new preliminary cost estimates for improving the city’s plant, keeping it at its current size or increasing its treatment capacity to 4 million. Going to 4 million gallons could cost as much as $15 million, though final estimates haven’t been presented.

Franklin, which U.S. census figures recently showed was the nation’s 14th-fastest growing city with a population of 50,000 or more, will be needing much more water in the years ahead. Projections show Franklin using as much as 8.2 million gallons per day next year and 15.6 million gallons of water a day by 2040.

Using the river as a water source has been a thorny proposition because of its history of environmental troubles, but aldermen want to keep the city plant as a backup water source.

“Would I prefer to never take water out of the Harpeth? Absolutely,” said Alderman Beverly Burger.

Franklin City Administrator Eric Stuckey said consultants will return to aldermen in the months ahead with more specific information about costs.

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