A citizen committee is urging Signal Mountain "to be vocal and choose local" in the imminent water department sale. The local group formed “Be Vocal. Choose Local.” after the town of Signal Mountain voted last May to initiate a Request for Proposals for the acquisition of its water department.
The committee urges the town to sell its water system to Walden’s Ridge Utility District as opposed to Tennessee American Water Company, a subsidiary of American Water Company, LLC.
Tennessee American officials said the firm has long provided clean water to Signal Mountain.
Tennessee American said, "Tennessee American Water Company has replied to the Request for Proposals (RFP) related to the water system for the town of Signal Mountain. Tennessee American, which has provided quality water for Signal Mountain since 1925, is interested in owning and operating the town’s water system. As Signal Mountain officials review the responses, we know their decision will be in the best interest of customers to assure reliable, safe and affordable water.
"Tennessee American Water has provided water in Hamilton County for over 130 years. We have an award-winning facility and a strategic approach for replacement of pipes, fire hydrants and other assets to address aging infrastructure through the use of new technologies.
"The town does not have its own resource of water (reliable springs or plentiful surface water) and has contracted since 1925 with Tennessee American Water to provide the drinking water for residents."
Dave Evans, co-chairperson for “Be Vocal. Choose Local," said, "After I did some research on the water quality issue, another committee member and I met with the Walden’s Ridge Utility District,” said “When comparing water quality reports, Hixson Utility’s water, which WRUD uses, is some of the cleanest in the state and even the nation. Tennessee American Water Company’s water, on the other hand, struck me as carrying potentially significant water quality concerns. While the health risks associated with TTHM contamination from surface-water chlorination have not been conclusively determined, and TAWC’s website indicates to me it is still 12 percent below the maximum permitted contamination level allowed by law, everyone should read TAWC’s own website description of the TTHM health risks. Why go there when there is a better local alternative?”
"Be Vocal. Choose Local" officials said, "Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, all community water systems must prepare annual reports, including info on detected contaminants, possible health effects and the water’s source. TAWC’s water is characterized as surface water with extremely high chlorine and trihalomethanes levels. Water containing high levels of TTHM poses potentially serious health risks.
" “Be Vocal. Choose Local.” advocates for WRUD water, which comes locally from the Hixson Utility District, has low chlorine levels and is safe to drink. It’s spring-fed and among the cleanest in the state, requiring minimal treatment.
"The RFP options include the acquisition of the water system, keeping ownership of the system with new management or merging the system with WRUD. If chosen, WRUD has committed to not increase rates for at least five years. It’s also committed to not charging any capital, fuel or hydrant fees, which TAWC charges.
"The town of Signal Mountain currently receives water from TAWC but is losing money by selling its own water. The water system is more than 70 years old and requires at least $1 million in repairs in infrastructure and general maintenance."
Eugenia Allderdice, co-chairperson for “Be Vocal. Choose Local,” said, “Our two sister towns – Walden and Lone Oak – severed their agreements with Tennessee American because they were unsatisfied with their service. Why would Signal Mountain want to sell their water system to Tennessee American when our sister towns got out?
“Tennessee American is owned by a company that’s for profit. They reward their shareholders by buying other water companies. Our sister towns had to go through so much frustrating litigation and time just to get out of an agreement that was not good for their communities.
"WRUD is a nonprofit and not beholden to shareholders, financial analysts or the New York Stock Exchange. Its Board of Directors are local, Signal Mountain residents, and WRUD’s customer service office is accessible by phone or in person on Signal Mountain.
“Walden’s Ridge Utility District is the obvious choice for the town of Signal Mountain. The organization already serves 800 customers on Signal Mountain and has committed to serving the needs of the community by directing all revenues from the sale back into the Signal Mountain Water System. Through this partnership, we will be able to invest back into community areas like recreation and education.”