MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - One shovel full of dirt started an improvement project eight years in the making.
Over the next five years, more than $100 million worth of upgrades will transform the T.E. Maxson Wastewater Treatment Facility.
The upgrades will improve wastewater treatment efficiency, improve operations, and improve water quality of the Mississippi River
The first phase began Thursday with a groundbreaking.
At the end of these upgrades, the city says the facility will treat 20 million more gallons a day, setting the city up for the infrastructure to grow.
"We need to bring it up so we have additional capacity for growth and then modernized," said Director of Public Works Robert Knecht. "You know the plant's 50 years old."
Currently, the wastewater treatment facility treats more than 70 million gallons of wastewater a day, which is near capacity of its capabilities, according to the city.
The upgrades will allow the plant to process 90 million gallons of wastewater a day, enough water to fill FedExForum 15 feet high.
As the city increases the amount of water the plant can treat, it raises the question of whether the city will change its stance on ending new sewer connections to anyone outside city limits.
"We are still internally reviewing our legal obligations with respect to extending sewer beyond the city limits. We hope that analysis will be done by mid-November," Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said.
Mayor Strickland said the city needs to make Memphians the first priority, especially when the city is at limited capacity.