HPUD Citizens Academy gets utility crash course

Shannon CareyHalls, Powell

Water and wastewater systems aren’t something most people think about. That is, until those systems fail. But eight local folks have taken the plunge to learn everything you wanted and didn’t want to know about water and sewer with Hallsdale-Powell Utility District‘s Citizens Academy.


This is the Citizens Academy’s third session. One of HPUD’s outreach programs, its aim is to address possible misconceptions in the community and that ever-present question, “Why are my rates so high?”

“We find it’s a good way to educate folks a little bit about the utility, the inner workings of the utility district and the people who make it happen each and every day,” said HPUD president Darren Cardwell as he welcomed the class.

Class members this time around include:

  • Matt Peters, who works at Knoxville Police Department and manages a consulting firm for homeowners associations;
  • Joe Pratt, who serves on the Halls Business and Professional Association board and works for Enrichment Federal Credit union;
  • Jeremy Cook, president of North Knox Rotary and senior vice president at Pinnacle Financial Partners;
  • Lisa Moyers of Halls, office leader at Pinnacle Financial Partners;
  • Gerald McGee, a FedEx employee with 31 years of service who recently moved to Powell from Memphis;
  • Wesley Needham, a “Union County transplant” and insurance professional who lives in Gibbs;
  • Jono White, a retired teacher who lives in Sterchi Village;
  • and this reporter.

Jono White, Joe Pratt and Gerald McGee listen to HPUD president Darren Cardwell during the HPUD Citizens Academy. The manhole shown here has been filled with dirt and debris.

Over lunch, Cardwell gave the class an overview of HPUD’s history and challenges. The utility district was formed in 1954, and much of the infrastructure dates back to the 1960s. There are 30,154 water connections, plus 683 miles of water mains and 474 miles of wastewater lines.

“If you stretched all of that out, you could just about drive to Key West,” he said.

Cardwell covered issues like the 2004 and 2014 consent orders from TDEC requiring that HPUD have no wastewater violations at its treatment plants and work towards no sanitary sewer overflows, period. He said ratepayers should look carefully at the condition of a utility district’s infrastructure, no matter where they live, because low rates could mean the systems you rely on aren’t getting repaired.

“The way I look at it, the infrastructure is what’s made this country what it is,” Cardwell said. “Think about places that don’t have good roads or water systems. We call them third world countries because of that.

HPUD’s sewer-inspecting robot peeks out of a pipe in this demonstration.

“Your money is going to work. We plough this money back in and we fix stuff.”

After lunch, the group moved to HPUD’s operations building, where they heard from staff about water and sewer lines, the types of pipe out there in the field, the work that HPUD puts in to fix problems. They saw a demonstration of HPUD’s pipe-inspecting robot and saw contractors spraying lining on the inside of a manhole to prevent stormwater infiltration.

Next month, the class will tour the Beaver Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

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