WWTA Says Mahan Gap Road Site Was Best Of 10 Locations Eyed For Sewage Treatment Plant; County Commission To Consider Purchase

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Officials of the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority (WWTA) said Tuesday a site at 7800 Mahan Gap Road was among 10 considered for a new sewage treatment plant to serve the growing Ooltewah area.


The Hamilton County Commission on Wednesday is set to consider a financing agreement with the WWTA that will allow the agency to purchase the 157-acre parcel "to meet future needs."  The cost of the property is $2.6 million.  Closing costs are anticipated to be no more than $400,000 with a total cost of $3 million to conclude the sale.


WWTA officlals said the first consideration was at the county’s landfil.

However, the property was dismissed from consideration due to the topography of the site and cost to construct at that location.  The site selected by the WWTA has 77 contiguous acres above the 100-year floodplain in two distinct areas and is suitable as a treatment facility, it was stated. In addition, officials said, "The site's size allows for significant buffering to provide a more pleasing aesthetic to the community."


The WWTA plans to use less than one-third of the site for the plant with three acres or less in exposed sewer, it was stated. 


WWTA officials said, "This new facility will be much smaller than the City of Chattanooga’s wastewater treatment facility. By comparison, the WWTA treatment facility will be sized to treat less than ten percent of the city’s facility and occupy a much smaller footprint. In addition, there will be a significant investment in odor control and landscaping from the start of the project. 


"Like cities and counties across the state of Tennessee, Chattanooga and Hamilton County are facing state and federally mandated clean-ups of their sewer facilities to make the environment safer as communities grow. The cost to mitigate the local issue is over $500 million. In Memphis, the cost is $250 million; while in Knoxville the cost is $540 million. The cost jumps to over $1.3 billion in Nashville."


The WWTA plan calls for treated water to go into the Tennessee River near the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant. While they are not sure of the exact location, they know that the plant will not be discharging treated water through the tributaries along Savannah Bay and into Harrison Bay, it was stated. 


WWTA Executive Director Mark Harrison said, “Protecting the environment and planning for growth can go hand-in-hand and certainly will for this project. There’s no way we’d ever try to send treated water through areas that might have a negative impact on our valuable creeks and tributaries.  We believe that the Tennessee Department of Environment of Conservation wouldn’t approve a plan that will take such a route.”


Mr. Harrison said citizens have been r"eaching out to the WWTA since the project came up during last week’s Hamilton County Commission agenda session. We appreciate the thoughtful comments and concerns we’ve received.  We will be posting frequently asked questions on our Facebook page and encourage people to look there for answers.”


In addition, he said a public meeting has been scheduled on Thursday, Oct. 11, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Fire Hall Training Center located at 9100 Snow Hill Road in Ooltewah. 


Officials said, "Homes in the area that are on septic will not have to connect to the line; however, as septic tanks fail over time, having an option that will serve the most amount of customers for the least amount of money is one that makes sense in the fastest growing area of Hamilton County.  Sewer systems are also far more environmentally friendly than septic systems for growing communities." 


If the financing plan is approved by the County Commission, the project will then move into zoning for consideration before the plant can be finalized.  WWTA Board Chairman Mike Moon said throughout the process, the WWTA will hold public meetings to keep the public informed and involved. He said, “It’s important for the community to know the challenges we’re facing to keep the environment safe both now and in the future. We appreciate the concerns we’ve heard and will continue to develop a plan that addresses environmental demands as we meet community need.”


The WWTA) is responsible for the public sewer system throughout the unincorporated areas of Hamilton County, Tennessee, and the surrounding municipalities of East Ridge, Lakesite, Lookout Mountain, Red Bank, Ridgeside, Signal Mountain, and Soddy Daisy. Its purpose is to protect the environment and public by regulating the quality of water discharged through the wastewater collection system and treatment works. The WWTA regulates the expansion of sewers and ensures compliancy with the provisions of the Clean Water act as well as other federal, state, and local laws.


Created in 1993 by the Hamilton County Commission, the WWTA is comprised of over 500 miles of collection lines, 60 pump stations, 900 grinder pumps, two wastewater treatment facilities, and services for more than 30,000 customers.




?        Where will the treated wastewater be discharged?

The treated wastewater will be pumped approximately 7 miles to a discharge point in the main channel of the Tennessee River near Sequoyah Nuclear Plant.  There will be no discharge into the Savannah Creek Drainage Basin that flows into Harrison Bay.


?        What will the WWTA do to minimize any odor coming from the plant?

Our number one goal in construction and operation of the treatment plant is to minimize odor.  The plant will be constructed and operated with the minimization of any emanating odor.  Methods, equipment and operations will attempt to ensure that little, if any, smells will be perceptible. The amount of exposed solids would only be one to three acres compared to Moccasin Bend Treatment plant’s 15.5 acres.


?        Will homeowners on septic have to connect to sewer?

As long as the septic system is operating correctly the homeowner won’t have to connect to the line. At some point in the future if the septic tank fails, then the homeowner would be required to connect to the sewer line, but only if the line is available near the residence.  Being on a sewer system is more environmentally friendly for future growth versus septic systems.


?        Why can’t the WWTA just pump the wastewater to Chattanooga’s Moccasin Bend treatment facility?

The Moccasin Bend plant is presently operating at maximum capacity and, the WWTA has already reached our current capacity that was recently negotiated with the City of Chattanooga.  If a new agreement was in place with the City of Chattanooga, and they had available capacity, the WWTA would have to pump the wastewater approximately 40- miles due to terrain and availability of easements.  Pumping such distances increases the risk of failures (spills) and is very costly.

?        How does this proposed facility compare in size to the one operated by the City on Moccasin bend?

The Moccasin Bend facility operates on roughly 80 acres out of a total 184 acres with no buffers, alsong some portions of its perimeter.  The proposed plant would operate on less than 50 acres out of a total of 157 acres and will contain buffers to neighboring land and structures.

?        How will this proposed construction be funded?

The Hamilton County Commission will obtain bond funds that will be paid back, over time, with WWTA rate payer revenue.

?        How long before proposed treatment plant is operational?

Once the land is purchased, it will take five to seven years before the plant would become operational.   There are several steps the WWTA must take before construction may begin.

?        How will this impact the public health?

The new sewer system will prevent overflows of non-treated water into waterways. Septic systems fail; however, with a sewer system that has adequate capacity both now and in the future, the WWTA is positioning the community for a safer environment as well as effective and efficient service.  From flush to finish, this plan positions Hamilton County for growth for the next four decades.  

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