MSD grinds away under Ohio River

MSD using giant machine to drill under Ohio River in effort to fight pollution

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The Louisville Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District’s Waterway Protection Tunnel Project is grinding its way under Louisville.

When it’s finished, the project will collect millions of gallons of stormwater and sewage overflows that currently pollute the Ohio River and Beargrass Creek.

“After a rainfall event, you will notice some of the stuff getting into the water after a rain event will no longer be there,” MSD Project Manager Jacob Mathis said. “So you won’t have to worry about any pollutants or contaminants reaching the waterway.”

The 412-foot tunnel boring machine named “Bumblebee,” in honor of Muhammad Ali, is tipped by a 22-foot diameter drill that takes bites out of the bedrock. Six feet of progress produces 40 tons of stone that is hauled out of the tunnel and away to a quarry.

So far, MSD calculates “Bumblebee’s” progress at 12 percent of the four-mile long path from 12th Street to Grinstead Drive. That currently places drilling operations 18 stories under the Ohio River.

“It’s unique in the sense that it’s mostly out of sight, out of mind,” Construction Manager Alston Noronha said. “So it causes minimum inconvenience compared to other options.”

Excavation is expected to be complete by year’s end. MSD will then remove the drilling equipment and construct a 12-inch concrete liner inside the tunnel.

The system is expected to be operational by the end of next year.

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