HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. (Press Release Included) – Sewer rates in Hamilton County are expected to increase by 12% beginning October 1, 2020. The increase comes as a result of various sewer projects across the county to meet EPA guidelines.
Officials say they have been in negotiations with the EPA for the last five years and it’s time to get something done.
“This past fiscal year meaning July 1 through June 30th , 2019 we had just under 300 sanitary sewer overflows in our service area. These overflows occur next to streams, in peoples front and back yards and sometimes in peoples houses. This is not anything you want to happen in a modern society.We have been using piping that was installed decades ago and we are to the point where we have to rehabilitate this piping,” Says Mike Patrick, Executive Director of WWTA.
Officials say they have been working to enter a Consent Decree for Hamilton County that will provide a legal settlement and a work plan that addresses the many sanitary sewer overflows that occur in the county each year.
The WWTA says they expect the Consent Decree to last somewhere between the next 15 and 20 years but that they expect the majority of the work to be completed within the first 10.
“Because of the nature of the projects , you can consider our consent decree to be somewhat front loaded. We will spend estimated at least $140 million dollars in the first 10 years. That really is the reason for the rather significant rate increase. I’ll agree this is a bad time for a rate increase. There’s no doubt about that with a pandemic especially. However we still have to stop these overflows. Overflows are illegal,” says Patrick.
Officials say the combined cost for all of the projects is estimated to be around $240 million dollars and that the money will come from sewer rate payers.
Officials say that because Hamilton County hasn’t been in compliance with the Federal Water Pollution Control Act for many years, this significant increase is necessary to accelerate the work plan and get the county into compliance with that federal act.”
According to officials, a list of updated projects can be found on WWTA’s page.
Read the full press release as well as answers to frequently asked questions below:
The Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority (WWTA) has been in negotiations with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for more than five years. The WWTA has been working to enter into a Consent Decree (CD) that will provide a legal settlement and a work plan to address sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) in Hamilton County. As with other metropolitan areas across the state and country who have entered into similar agreements, the WWTA anticipates the duration of the CD to be between 15 and 20 years with a significant portion of the work occurring in the first 10 years.
The primary requirement of the CD is an accelerated work plan. In anticipation of the CD, sewer rehabilitation projects are currently underway in East Ridge, Lookout Mountain, Ooltewah, Red Bank, and Soddy Daisy. Additional projects are in the planning stage that will correct significant deficiencies on Signal Mountain.
With numerous sewer projects already in progress across Hamilton County and many more to come, the cost of the work is significant. To begin to meet the financial obligations of the accelerated work plan, it is necessary for the WWTA to increase sewer fees by 12%. The rate increase will take effect on October 1, 2020.
WWTA Board Chairman Dick Gee said, “The Hamilton County sewer system typically experiences over 200 weather-related sewer overflows each year. The overflows can contaminate local streams and potentially pose a public health risk. Addressing the issue is costly; however, it is the right thing to do and it is a requirement of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.”
WWTA Executive Director, Michael Patrick said, “The WWTA has worked hard to keep sewer fees as low as possible throughout its history. As with other infrastructure that we rely on as a society, a very conservative approach was taken to address upgrades and repairs. Unfortunately, we are at the point where we can no longer put off making significant improvements to our critical sewer infrastructure. Some of the most important components of our modern society are the investments that previous generations have made in our water and sewer infrastructure. Those investments were not easy then and certainly are not easy now. However, it is time for us to do our part for ourselves as well as for future generations. In the coming months, you will be hearing about the projects that the WWTA is undertaking to provide a safe and reliable sanitary sewer system for Hamilton County. We would appreciate the public’s understanding as the work begins. We will post regular updates on our social media page and also through traditional media platforms to let the public know where these investments are being made, why they are being made, and who they will serve both now and in the future.”
Frequently Asked Questions:09.09.2020_Frequently Asked Questions
Supporting Information:09.09.2020_Supporting information from WWTA-1