The Environmental Era
Early in 1965, the Ohio River Valley Water
Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) cited MSD for its efforts to help clean up the Ohio River
efforts that had helped make the rivers waters the cleanest it had been
"in modern times." The Fort Southworth treatment plant was removing about 65
percent of the solids from the water discharged into the river far more than the 45
percent required under the weak state regulations of the time.
Downtown urban renewal projects brought the first major separation of
Louisville's old combined storm and sanitary sewers. The photo at the left, taken
near Brook and Lee streets in October, 1974, shows the magnitude of the task. At the
left is the 90-inch storm sewer, already installed. The men are installing the
24-inch pipe for the new sanitary sewer. While urban renewal took care of the cost
of separating the sewers in its areas, hundreds of miles of combined sewers would remain
into the 21st century. Separating them all would be prohibitively expensive;
preventing them from polluting streams would be a tremendously difficult challenge.
Courier-Journal Photo by Scott
But concern for the environment,
which led to the creation of ORSANCO shortly after World War II, was intensifying.
Congress was putting the finishing touches on its first Water Quality Act, which would go
into effect later that year; the act would require states to set water quality standards
subject to the approval of the Department of the Interior. This would be supplemented by
the Clean Water Restoration Act of 1966, which would provide federal matching funds for
constructing sewage treatment plants.
Louisville and Jefferson County both were busy
with improvements and developments in 1965. Construction started on the Riverside
Expressway, from Third Street to Zorn Avenue; the debate continued over whether the
expressway to Lexington would be allowed to go through Cherokee Park. Downtown Urban
Renewal was reaching full stride, with the demolition of many old buildings. Bluegrass
Industrial Park opened on 627 acres of farmland recently annexed to Jeffersontown. The
number of suburban cities in Jefferson County grew to 58; the number of small sewage
treatment plants outside MSDs service area grew to about 175.
These developments were having mixed impacts on
Urban Renewal and highway construction were
demolishing buildings, reducing the number of MSD customers and MSDs income.
Urban Renewal would soon demand expensive sewer improvements, including a requirement to
separate the sanitary and stormwater lines. The Water Quality Act would soon establish
standards for much cleaner discharges into the Ohio River. Suburban development was
booming, and MSD didnt have the resources to keep up. When MSD eventually found the
resources to expand, the proliferating small treatment plants would have to be acquired
As these challenges mounted, MSD found new
leadership. In mid-1965, John Person resigned as MSDs top executive to become head
of the National Rivers and Harbors Congress in Washington, D.C. To replace him, the MSD
Board chose a familiar and trusted expert: Morris Forman, who had been the districts
chief engineer almost from the beginning.
The board also created a new position for Forman
administrative consultant and created two more top engineering positions to
|Morris Forman: The Man Who Became Mister MSD
If anyone ever deserved the title of
"Mister MSD," it was Morris Forman. A civil engineer, he went to work for the
old Commissioners of Sewerage in 1922. He became the agencys top administrator in
1965, and had overseen the construction of more than 600 miles of sewers and the first
major treatment plant by the time he retired in 1972. He continued to serve as a special
consultant until shortly before his death in 1992.
Formans only extended period away from
Louisvilles sewers began in 1942, when the old commissioners ran out of money and
disbanded. He worked as an engineer at Fort Knox until he was called back in 1945 to help
the group that was organizing what would become the Metropolitan Sewer District.
Over the years, his titles varied. He was
officially named chief engineer in 1948, although he had been serving as the top engineer
before that. Originally, he reported directly to the MSD Board. Then, when John J. Person
was hired as the agencys first top administrator, Forman reported directly to him.
When Person resigned in 1965, the Board created
a new title for the top position "administrative consultant" and
named Forman to fill it.
In later years, employees remembered
Formans good humor and genuine interest in them and their families.
Forman was proud of the progress MSD made over
the years. "When we took over," he said, "they still had 4,000 or 5,000
privies in this town" and all the raw sewage was flowing into the Ohio River.
Throughout his years with MSD, Formans
position was as a consultant, not an employee. The Board continued to retain him as a
consultant after his retirement at reduced pay, in lieu of a pension. For many
years afterward, he attended board meetings regularly, and served as a valuable resource
for MSDs newer employees.
Shortly before he retired, MSD honored him by
re-naming its major treatment plant the Morris Forman Wastewater Treatment Plant.
"Its hard to tell you how much I appreciated it," he told Courier-Journal
reporter Bill Holsted. "It makes me feel like Ive done something."
MSD History continued