Thanks to a live feed, I was able to watch about three hours of the very important Hamilton County Commission meeting on Dec. 12 while in Alabama. This was the first time I have been able to hear both sides of the WWTA vs. Ooltewah Homeowners fully present their arguments. One thing we can all agree on is that they have to do something, the question is what is the best for all.
The WWTA presented their case first with “Facts vs Misconceptions”. They had some fuzzy facts, to say the least. Even in the return questioning from some of the commissioners, it seemed the WWTA was on their back foot for answers or evasive. “This is our plan,” to “well, we don’t actually have a plan.” “Yes, we have done all the necessary steps,” but “no, we haven’t checked with the soil conservation,” and so forth. One commissioner brought up the fact that people were worried WWTA and construction traffic would pass through a local subdivision. The commissioner asked, "Can you promise right now you won't go have construction traffic going through ________ (and he named a street which is in the nearly subdivision) to get to the property?" They “promised” they wouldn't. I literally just laughed out loud....promises, promises.
When the WWTA concluded and the presenters from the community spoke, they showed the WWTA's inconsistencies and inaccuracies. As Mr. Moorhouse stated in his opening, “It’s not what the WWTA says, but rather what they don’t say.” He was right.
Here are some of the misconceptions that were refuted. The WWTA stated, It wouldn’t cause any depreciation of property values (not at all true according to various types of research that was presented - it can affect property values anywhere from 10-25 percent). They then tried to portray comparable dwellings surrounding the various WWTP (Wastewater Treatment Plants) around the Southeast to the types of homes that are around Heron Bay and the Mahan Gap Rd areas. Actual photos showed that around a representation of the properties. They are multi unit dwellings, apartments, duplexes, and at least one motor home. There is no comparison.
They attempted to cite how "safe" it is (using just one study), then refuted their own claim later admitting that they were offering to buy up houses of concerned citizens around the proposed site (now, why would you offer than if there’s absolutely nothing to be alarmed about?).
The floodplain issue is still one that they could not give a satisfactory answer to the entire time, and the area is in a known flooding area. The most glaring refutation, was the WWTA’s failure to fully research the covenants and restrictions from the time when the TVA built the Chickamauga dam and noting one of the specific restrictions is that sewage is not to be conveyed on that property. If they had been truthful about it, they would have known that this site is a non starter for that reason alone.
The Ooltewah residents also did an outstanding presentation about the potential severe health risks to the people, and ecological risks to the land and animals and Savannah Bay itself, and areas surrounding and downstream of it. The opposition absolutely crushed WWTA's "facts vs misconceptions" presentation. In fact, it should have been the other way around with the the Ooltewah residents presenting facts vs WWTA’s misconceptions.
The WWTA has been deceptive on quite a few different occasions in just this proposed plant - trying to slide by in the original meeting back in September, to posting only two signs inconspicuously on the property in question because they were trying to approve it by stealth, possible violations of the Sunshine law, to having an Ooltewah developer sit on the board of the WWTA who, it would appear, could most definitely have a conflict of interest since he is directly affected by this.
On a personal note, our family had years of shoddy treatment by the WWTA - they lied, they mismanaged, they didn’t maintain their own easement, so in the Commission hearing last Wednesday when they “promised” they would not go through a subdivision, I just laughed. As the saying goes, past behavior is a pretty good indicator of future behavior. We should expect more of the same because nothing has changed with this group, except they have a new director. Who here is regulating the WWTA? No one. When a disaster happens on this proposed site (and it will because their track record is horrible-even in the last few months) who are they going to answer to? Who is going to hold these unelected officials accountable? What recourse will the citizens who are directly impacted by this going to have?
There are better options and they know it, they may cost more but when spread out over all the ratepayers it isn’t that bad. We all should know by now that cheaper isn’t always better; in fact, often times it actually ends up costing more in the long run as we are finding out by the consent decree forced upon Hamilton County because of this very thing.
One way to gain the trust of the people and for WWTA to prove themselves is by doing the right thing by the citizens that surround this area in Ooltewah and find a better site that is less populated than this one.
They will have to be forced by the Hamilton County Commission to do the right thing. I hope that the Commission is up to the task and will not plop a 10 million gallon WWTP right in the middle of the fastest growing area of Hamilton County.
Homeowner in Ooltewah