Kingsport completing multi-million dollar water plant tunnel

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KINGSPORT, TN – The city of Kingsport is wrapping up a multi-million dollar construction project.

In November of last year, crews of miners began work on a tunnel to connect the South Fork of the Holston River to the city’s water plant.

When Kingsport’s water plant was built decades ago, water was moved from the river over a cliff using vertical pipes.

“The problem is it provides a lot of risk,” said Ryan McReynolds, Kingsport Assistant City Manager for Operations.

The solution, McReynolds said, was to simply move the river to the plant using a tunnel.

“The river is going to flow by gravity, no mechanical assistance, no pumps. It is going to flow right into the tunnel, flood the tunnel and flow to the water plant,” said McReynolds. “This project has been years if not decades in the making.”

Ten months in, and that project is now almost complete.

The construction is costing just over $13 million.

“This is not a tax funded operation, it’s a utility,” McReynolds said.

He said the project did receive some grant money too, but overall he calls it a “true investment for the long term.”

“What we’re trying to do is just make sure when you turn on that tap that water comes out of the tap. When you flush the toilet you’re able to flush it with water, and to do that we’re taking what could be a point of failure away from the equation, and we’re making Kingsport’s water system reliable.”

Reliability that McReynolds said customers can count on for the next 100 plus years.

Construction on the tunnel is expected to finish in October. Crews still need to line it with concrete.

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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