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raw sewage in our waterways
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Posted by RobN
12/6/2018 11:09 AM
As documented by TDEC, the WWTA has a history and record of repeatedly polluting our waterways, Here is a little more information regarding how the WWTA plans to push the sewage plant through:

Consent Decree: The WWTA is Holding the County Commission Hostage and the Ransom is Mahan Gap Commissioner Tim Boyd is the first to pay said ransom
12/05/2018


What is a consent decree? As I understand it, it is an agreement/settlement between two opposing sides without admission of guilt or liability. In this case, it involves the WWTA and the EPA, Dept. of Justice, TDEC, and possibly other TN Authorities. What does it do? It helps protect the WWTA from future costly lawsuits. It allows the WWTA to develop a plan (agreed to by the EPA) to correct current violations on a timetable of their design and agreed to by the EPA.

Is a consent decree unique to the WWTA? NO! Knoxville signed theirs in 2003, Nashville in 2007, Chattanooga in 2012, Memphis in 2012, and Atlanta in 1999. You can almost say that consent decrees between cities and the EPA are common! Any search on the topic will show pages of results. The WWTA has been developing theirs since 2014. The consent decree document has become a useful tool to give local governments political cover to make the difficult political choice to spend taxpayer money on very un-exciting items that have been ignored for years like water and sewer infrastructure. It is often flaunted to show the taxpayer that government has no choice. It can be presented as something to fear, when, in fact it protects the WWTA and puts the habitual offender in charge of the design and implementation of their own rehabilitation plan. And now according to the WWTA, and agreed to by the EPA, it’s time to pay the piper!

The consent decree will require a lot of money. Hamilton County has an excellent bond rating. (We all should be proud of that.) Money needed to fund this project will not hurt the bond rating. The document itself does not ensure that the stipulations of the agreement will be met. It will take excellent execution, supervision, and discipline to meet the obligations and benchmarks promised to the EPA. And there is the red flag. As an example of poor execution, priorities, and expediency, let’s examine the Snow Hill Pump Station. It is located near ground zero. It is near the place where the North Hamilton County Community and the WWTA have drawn a line in the proverbial sand. It is a “pump station poster child” for the WWTA. In a memo generated by TDEC in June of 2016 regarding the North Ooltewah Master Plan ”the Snow Hill Pump Station is currently at capacity… pump station is not large enough to accommodate larger pumps so it must be replaced… SSO’s would occur. Mark Harrison stated there is money for this project but the budget has not been approved yet. Board need to approve the upgrades to Snow Hill Pump Station.” It is now December 2018 and the pump station has had several SSO’s (sanitary sewer overflows) as predicted by the WWTA. Every attempt to fix the pump station has failed. It is still running on temporary pumps. WWTA employees show up there almost every day. The local residents continue to tolerate the noise of the temporary pumps and the smell of the open station. The local golfers no longer can use one of their greens; pedestrians have to stay clear of “posted” contaminated areas. Our once pristine waterways continue to absorb and catch WWTA’s mistakes. Needless to say, the North Hamilton County community has no confidence in the ability of the WWTA to properly execute the consent decree or oversee a $45+ million sewage plant project.

The county will be offering their bonds to fund our sewer project upgrades and to fund the new sewage plant. (They have also been asked to fund the $3 million acquisition cost of the Mahan Gap site). The projected $45 million will be underwritten by all of the Hamilton County taxpayers and the money will be placed in the “trusted” hands of the WWTA. Who has the authority to hold the WWTA accountable to fulfill the WWTA’s obligation of the consent decree? Not the Mayor. Not the County Commission. Is there any elected official that has authority over the WWTA? The answer is: not one.

The Times Free Press is quoted to say “WWTA kept that card (consent decree) hidden even when facing hostile crowds of homeowners in public meetings over plans for a $45 million sewage treatment plant at 7800 Mahan Gap Road and $200 million in other needed improvements.” As Commissioner Tim Boyd stated recently on his Facebook page “It seems the WWTA Board members and those advising the WWTA decided the best approach was to say little and create a “time sensitive crisis”. Now the WWTA has their crisis. It is called a consent decree. This document will be the weapon of choice for the WWTA and its supporters to get what they want. And what they want most is Mahan Gap.

Brent Smith
NHC United for Responsible Growth
Posted by Fishheadspin
12/6/2018 12:54 PM
Trust me, when the EPA says it has to be done... it is because it should have been done 20 years ago. Most of the consent degree is also federal money, and yes that is still taxpayer money. Chattanooga and Hamilton county's sewer infrastructure as a whole is over a 100 years old, 150+ in most areas of downtown, with very little updates or improvements.

Just to play devils advocate, the county is trying to stop overflows from occurring in the Wolftever watershed by building a new treatment plant,,,,the people protesting it are trying to stop it from being built, most of who live in houses in Ooltewah and Harrison who are currently on septic tanks, which is a fact that are the #1 reason for E.coli contamination in U.S. waterways! So who is really looking out for our pristine waterways?

Also, I live 1.2 miles from the proposed site and I am no fan of the idea of it being so close but there really are 2 sides of every story.


The fact is, money is going to have to be spent, pump stations and treatment plants are going to have to be built if you want to keep raw sewage out of our waterways.

I'm just saying!
Posted by finbully
12/6/2018 3:38 PM
It is a bunch of BS that a consent decree is a way "to get what they want". A consent decree saves the time and cost of prolonged litigation to mitigate a problem that exists. Consent decrees, since they are agreed to by both parties are generally more authoritative and compliant than lawsuits. There is actual oversight of consent decrees. This provides workable solutions that are paid by taxpayers in a less costly manner than endless lawsuits by groups that survive exclusively on litigation. A consent decree is not going to make everyone happy but they are an arbitrated solution that intends to work optimally based on cost benefit for the many, not the few. It is how our system of democracy is supposed to work. Consent decrees involving government entities are certainly public knowledge. There is no "hidden" agenda. Yes, they have implementation time frames but this is not the same as a "time sensitive crisis". In fact the implementation time frames consent decrees have is a plus. I've not fact checked anything the OP says but a single source of information in this case Times Free Press is not the way to educate yourself or anyone else.
Posted by RobN
12/6/2018 8:43 PM
Great points and based on the public meetings I have attended you are correct this should have been done many years ago. I also agree there are two sides to every story and in this case maybe three or four sides. Money does need to be spent and the general concern for the local residents is there are other sites which may have a slightly higher initial cost but much less risks for damaging the environment (airborne and waterborne) and health of the larger number of people in the immediate area, the old Birchwood landfill is one such location.

I am not sure I agree that the number one reason for e-coli in the waterways is septic tanks but I am not sure it matters. I can find articles that say it is water run off and I can find articles that say it is septic - specifically in Fl., so honestly I do not know. What I do not know is the WWTA discharged 2mln+ gallons of raw sewage into the Wolftever watershed in 2017 and 2018 and I find it hard to believe septic tanks did the same. Most will agree properly maintained septic tanks with the proper acreage will work just as efficiently as a sewage plant without the risk of introducing various disinfectants into the water ways and without creating numerous airborne toxins. If people flush the wrong things neither system will work correctly. I also know in Fl. septic tanks have been a big issue to the point that at one point they passed legislation that required inspection but this was overturned.

and just one more thing.....other counties and municipalities have been utilizing decentralized sewage treatment options along with the traditional centralized sewage plants for decades. They started using these in Rutherford County in 2000. They are basically collection systems by development (kind of like big septic tanks...but not exactly the same) with drip systems and this requires each development to leave the proper amount of undeveloped land to "fertilize". This shifts the burden to the developers and the home buyers versus the tax payer. It would be nice to see other options from the WWTA but due to "time sensitive crisis" that has been created I am not sure this will be possible.



Fishheadspin - 12/6/2018 12:54 PM

Trust me, when the EPA says it has to be done... it is because it should have been done 20 years ago. Most of the consent degree is also federal money, and yes that is still taxpayer money. Chattanooga and Hamilton county's sewer infrastructure as a whole is over a 100 years old, 150+ in most areas of downtown, with very little updates or improvements.

Just to play devils advocate, the county is trying to stop overflows from occurring in the Wolftever watershed by building a new treatment plant,,,,the people protesting it are trying to stop it from being built, most of who live in houses in Ooltewah and Harrison who are currently on septic tanks, which is a fact that are the #1 reason for E.coli contamination in U.S. waterways! So who is really looking out for our pristine waterways?

Also, I live 1.2 miles from the proposed site and I am no fan of the idea of it being so close but there really are 2 sides of every story.


The fact is, money is going to have to be spent, pump stations and treatment plants are going to have to be built if you want to keep raw sewage out of our waterways.

I'm just saying!
Posted by lafae7
12/6/2018 9:40 PM
E.Coli is everywhere. Septic tanks have nothing more to contribute to E.Coli than any other natural causes for its growth. Lastly, hidden agendas are EVERYWHERE. I’m In manufacturing on an industrial scale right now and I can promise you I see it everyday. The hush hush so to speak.
Posted by RobN
12/7/2018 11:09 AM
Just to be clear no hidden agenda on my part my agenda is clear:
1. I think the sewage plant should be located in an area that is currently zoned appropriately and away from our waterways. As a lot of you know, I live 3/4 of a mile from the proposed location and I have attended each of the meetings and the lack of consideration for the immediate community and current zoning has been shocking.
2. I think the WWTA should review other alternatives similar to what other countries and municipalities are utilizing: Rutherford county TN, Dalton GA, and Henry County Ga.
3. As I have learned more about the WWTA I think there needs to be some type of oversight or accountability to the local residents. I also think developers should not be allowed to chair the wwta. You can review who owns property in the area that is currently closed to new development and who will immediately profit when the moratorium is lifted.
Posted by Triton4Bass
12/8/2018 12:17 AM
Interesting perspectives. I’ve worked in this industry for nearly 14 years and am very familiar with most of this. I am dual certified in collections and distribution. In Dalton, our two larger sanitary sewer treatment plants are separated by a river. A sanitary sewer plant being near a waterway has minimal significance if the infrastructure is in good condition, properly maintained and operated properly. We actually operate a Land Application System which is unique. There are two in the state of Georgia. Most of the public knows very little regarding this topic, but operating efficiently is quite simple. Accountability and being proactive are most important; however, it takes quality personnel and equipment to ensure success. We voluntarily participate in multiple audits on an annual basis. Both, treatment plants and collection system. We operate so efficiently that we have the option to participate or not. The collections audit is based on a CMOM program which is a well rounded plan covering everything from budgeting, routine maintenance, engineering, staffing, state certifications, rehab efforts, training, safety, etc. Being honest and open-minded is respected more than one would think when it comes to rules and regulations. The professionals in the industry have such a passion for their work that often goes unrecognized. The consent decree is something Dalton is not subject to due to our efficiency, but we are in the process of voluntarily developing a CMOM program in hopes that it will enhance our operations. The CMOM plan must be approved by the EPD. It facilitates topics outlining your current operations status, expectations from the EPD and a detailed plan (that is feasible) to reach alignment of the two. The CMOM program must be constantly evolving and is updated annually for the EPD’s review. There is a lot of expense involved if the CMOM program is functional. We are spoiled to have the modern utilities we have and we all take it for granted. We continue to use our God given resources more and more daily but we don’t want to sacrifice for the convenience of them. As we populate and use these resources our expectations of having them when it’s convenient for us goes unrecognized, but as we use them we have to replenish them. Replenishing them costs money, takes up space for facilities and brings about new rules/regulations which most of the public views as a nuisance. We all contribute to “the problem”, so we should all work together to make the best of it and understand the impact we make on a daily basis.
Posted by fishheadjones
12/8/2018 7:45 AM
Very well stated, Triton. I have been a wastewater treatment plant operator for almost 30 years with the last 20 in a supervisory role. It is true that the average citizen has no idea what is involved in keeping the waterways clean and safe. Most don’t even know there is such thing as a collection system or wastewater treatment plant until there is a problem or it becomes time to expand or build a new one. Operating and maintaining a collection system and treatment facility properly is expensive and very technically involved. It doesn’t happen by accident or dumb luck. Operators and maintenance personnel must be educated and highly trained. They must also take pride in their work and have a desire to protect the public health and safety by producing the highest quality water possible. Just as importantly as the work ethic of the field personnel, the utility management has to do its part by planning, budgeting, and fulfilling its role as a good corporate citizen. A utility should be looking as much as 20 years into the future to prepare for growth and regulatory changes.Transparency and public education are essential. From the outside looking in, this seems to be where the problem lies. It is absolutely true that a well-maintained and properly operated collection system and treatment plant is the most environmentally friendly and best long-term solution. Unfortunately, the Hamilton County WWTA has lost the trust of those they serve and have a lot to do in order to regain it.
Posted by RobN
12/8/2018 10:13 AM
Thank you all for the input, and kudos to Dalton for looking far enough into the future to acquire the proper amount of land, to properly develop and train their team, and for being open and honest. You both are correct there is a lack of trust and a lack of confidence in the WWTA.

The lack of trust for me personally comes from some of the contradictions I have heard and observed either in the current process or in the town hall meetings and the potential conflict of interest with the Chairman of the WWTA, who is also a developer.

The lack of confidence comes from the mismanagement we observe every day. The Snow-hill pump station is currently the most visible to the residence in this area. This was noted as a problem and 2016 and as noted in the link below and the WWTA stated that they had the funds to fix this issue, the WWTA has spent a lot of money to fix this issue and since October of 2017 there have been 29 overflows or spills with over 2,000,000 gallons of raw sewage flowing directly into the Wolftever watershed (second link below). So the WWTA knew there was a problem, they had the funds, they spent the funds, and they did not fix it.....this is a pump station - how are they going to run a sewage plant? The WWTA has also been sued by the The Riverkeepers for the excessive sewage discharges into the Tn River from the Signal Mt. sewage plant.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2245815795653618&set=p.22458...

https://www.chattanoogan.com/2018/11/2/379243/TDEC-Says-WWTA-Has-Had...

Edited by RobN 12/8/2018 10:13 AM
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