EPA Fines Are Proof Office Of Internal Audit Should Be Independent

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

It was a major blow to the taxpaying citizens of Chattanooga to learn of the over $250 million fine imposed by the EPA over our poorly functioning combined sewer system. This huge fine also demonstrates why the office of Internal Audit should be independent and not under the control of the mayor's office. 

In 2001 the city of Chattanooga entered into a major expansion and updating of the Moccasin Bend Waste Water Treatment Plant. Treatment capacity was to be greatly expanded with the addition of new secondary clarifiers and chlorine contact tanks for effluent disinfection, new digesters, equalazation basins, and a new " state of the art " $22 million filter press to produce a Class A land applicable sewage sludge product. A new relief pump station was built along with new offices and storm water treatment facilities. A $16 million oxygen production plant and UNOX secondary treament system was also constructed along with pumps and related equipment.  

After completion of the project and " signing off " problems soon began.  Some concrete structures soon collapsed and severe cracking was discovered in other structures. Repairing these structures required adding thickness to the walls resulting in hundreds of thousands of gallons in lost treatment capacity. The filter press never functioned and was soon mothballed. The new digesters did not work and tax payers are now spending $70,000 a month in natural gas bills to run the digesters that in the past made enough methane gas on their own to operate.  

Over $1 million in electrical and instrumentation equipment was charged to the tax payers and never installed. In June 2007 I contacted Mr. Stan Sewell, director of Internal Audit about these problems and cover up by the management and directors at the Moccasin Bend Waste Water Treament Plant and Public Works officials. A full audit was performed and I worked closely with Mr. Sewell and his staff. Needless to say this was a real career booster for me.  I was not to be intimidated. Mr. Sewell and myself filmed the plant superintendent sadly trying to show him new electrical and instrumentation equipment that was never installed.  

The full audit report was issued to Mayor Littlefield on Dec. 21, 2007. The total was a shocking $45 million in missing and misappropriated funds.  I was at a mutual friend of mine and the mayor's at a Christmas party in late December 2007. I asked the mayor what he intended to do about this mess. His reply was "these guys are my friends."  No punitive action was taken against any director or management employee. No legal action was taken against any employee, company or director.  

The filter press was later retro-fitted to produce a so called Class B product that  can only be applied to animal forage crops. Two independant laboratories found chlorine residuals at over 800 ppm in the land applied sludge making it unsuitable for any land applicable use.   

The city of Chattanooga and City Council continue to award millions of dollars in contracts to these same engineering companies. These companies will be doing all engineering work on any future projects. The city has recently hired employees from these companies and they are currently employed at the Moccasin Bend Waste Water Treatment Plant. 

During the original Blue Ribbon storm water hearings Bill Raines, who was chairman ask the Public Works deputy director what he intended to do with the just awarded $9 million he was just given, he said, "Sir, I don't know."   

This information is on the city of Chattanooga website under Internal Audit- Audit # 07-01 dated Dec. 21, 2007. Please vote yes on Aug. 2 to make the office of Internal Audit indepenent from the mayor's control. By doing so we can put a stop to these good old boy policies and economic insanity.  

Guy Satterfield



Roy Exum: ‘Mom Don’t Have…I Do’

It’s hard to know what goes through the mind of a five-year-old, particularly one who watches her mom go in and out of jail due to drug addiction. But little Sunshine Oelfke is obviously being raised right by her grandmother because the other morning, the five-year-old came into the kitchen before leaving for kindergarten with a baggie full of coins from her piggy bank. “I asked ... (click for more)

Problems With The Key Staff Findings On The Landfill

Concerning the proposed C&D Landfill in Harrison, on Sept. 11, the staff of the Chattanooga Hamilton-County Regional Planning Agency made a presentation to the Planning Commission for the rezoning request.  Mr. Schultz for the staff made the following statements which were titled "Staff Key Findings."  I would like to contend with their findings.  1. "Proposal ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Committee Says Pulling Away From County Schools Is "Feasible"

After eight months of investigating the viability of Signal Mountain establishing a separate school district, a committee of six has determined that it is feasible and would meet the goal of improving the education provided to students. The committee was also tasked with identifying obstacles and if possible to find ways to overcome them.  Results of the report were presented ... (click for more)

Alexander, Corker Are Among Sponsors Of Bill To Stabilize Premiums And Access To Insurance

A group of 24 senators - 12 Republicans and 12 Democrats led by Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) - on Thursday released short-term bipartisan legislation to stabilize premiums and access to insurance in individual health insurance markets. Senators Alexander and Murray said: “We have reached an agreement ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Hits One Last Bump In The Road At State Volleyball

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – It’s not like Signal Mountain hasn’t been down this bumpy road before. Despite the obstacles created by losing early in the TSSAA state volleyball tournament, the Lady Eagles have proven to be cautious, but relentless drivers on a path back to title contention twice before. They’re on the same course this October. After losing to Knox Catholic ... (click for more)

Baylor Advances To State Final; Sale Creek Ousted

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The Baylor Lady Red Raiders are one win away from another D-II Class AA state volleyball championship. Facing the Brentwood Academy Lady Eagles for the third time this season here at Blackman High School Wednesday morning in the winner’s bracket final, Baylor was able to advance by winning in four sets, but it was a battle for the ages where two really good ... (click for more)