Soon after the public learned that the Hamilton County Water & Wastewater Authority had dumped over two million gallons of untreated sewage in the Ooltewah Basin in the past year, a friend of mine, who is somewhat brilliant, was kind enough to illustrate: “That amount of sewer, if somehow confined to the playing surface of a football field, would not only cover the entire field but create a pool that would be 5 ½ inches deep … that’s enough to get inside your shoes… “
Frankly, I didn’t need the graphic illustration to include my toes but what better reason does one need? Not even one of us wants to put a sewer facility smack dab in the middle of some beautiful neighborhood where our friends live.
Yet it is true -- we all agree the circumstances are so dire we can’t get by any longer without a serious sewer remedy.
Because the issue is so volatile, there are rumors in abundance all around the Ooltewah Basin that are being discovered as hogwash so allow me to both clarify and insist what you are getting ready to read is no more than a rumor. It has no one’s signature nor backing but it is getting legs. And that is because, to me, it is pure genius.
I’ll admit I scoffed when I heard the possibility of Hamilton County placing a $40 million-$50 million project into another county, this until it was better explained. Now I’m so fired up over the chance I hardly know what to do because this could help more people than you would ever dream. If our leaders can’t score a touchdown with this ball of solution, then some hides ought to be on the wall.
What we do is simply change “me” to “we.”
Get the picture: If you go 19 miles north of Ooltewah, you’ll find an unincorporated community called Georgetown. It is where State Route 60, a dandy stretch of road at that, connects Cleveland and Dayton. It is also where State Highway 58 – remember going to UT games before the Interstate? – meets Highway 60.
But far better in our scheme, it is where the counties of Hamilton, Bradley and Meigs touch. Don’t get twisted up on touching. It’s people who touch. And just as none of us wants a sewer facility near homes of children, the idea of a “Regional Sewage Treatment” facility instead of one that would serve just Hamilton County is what every genuine Tennessean will adore.
Let’s be candid: Meigs County hardly has the resources Hamilton does, this despite the truth that Hamilton will have to borrow the cash, issue bonds or whatever. So, will Bradley, but the three counties together can build a state-of-the-art sewage system, one like you might find in Moscow, Russia or the German Hinterland, is a win-win-win.
Whoa! Run into the street and stop traffic!! I have just remembered that TVA is moving its power division from downtown Chattanooga to an economically-depressed county with a name that rhymes with eggs. That’s right, in early fall it was announced the pocketless government utility will relocate to a Highway 60 address in Meigs. TVA will invest $280 million by 2023 and for 5 percent Comish I can sell a sewer system to TVA inside of a week.
Stop! The Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Authority must meet with TVA’s governmental cousin – the Environmental Protection Agency -- in about three weeks. The Hamilton County WWTA has not endeared itself to anyone, most especially in Ooltewah and Collegedale and, with over 30 counts of code violations to go with the sanitary sewer overflows, I’m thinking the smart play is to cut a deal.
Are you kidding me? I’ll happily plop down in front of the EPA and easily demonstrate we cannot only fulfill the sewer needs for three counties, we would be honored to help the U.S. Government with any and all its Highway 60 demands. ‘We’re into sanitary’ – that’s our new slogan. As a matter of fact, we can be open for full capacity sometime in mid-2022 and, when the TVA brings its first 200 employees to ‘out in the sticks,’ they’ll swear they finally made it to Nirvana.
If today is January 2019, with that commitment of a sewer treatment center we can get a host of roadside legends coming up with springtime tulips. How about a Mitch Patel hotel, a Logan’s Steak House with full bar on Sunday, a must-have Cracker Barrel, even a Bed, Beauty and Beyond – skies the limit. TVA knows there is a buy-in for every game and we are willing to sell naming rights for a mere pittance of true worth. What greater honor for a man who made Tennessee the best – The Bill Haslam Sewage Co-op!
We put this monster within sight of Highway 60, let it be known some beautiful Tennessee farmland finally has “real time” access to a reputable sewer system, and I don’t care in which county you want to sit, developers, corporate land hawks, and all kinds of future investments will beat a path to the door.
A TDEC spokesperson declined to reveal how the state attorney’s office will respond to the 30-plus charges listed in a November 1 complaint against the WWTA group. It was explained that the EPA and TDEC are independent of the other and that much will depend on future inquires and hearings, as well as WWTA’s ability to remain solvent and trustworthy.
What no thinking person can understand is why the proposed Mahan Gap property has been selected as the best site. Those who don’t think believe there may be a shady deal that is hidden, that some scoundrel has come upon us with his sheepskin camouflage, but if anyone can get their arms around this sewer project, the Mahan Gap parcel is so inadequate with flooding plains and flooding zoning it's laughable.
Then there is the deed to the Mahan Gap parcel. It is said that it has so many holes in it that any by-the-hour lawyer can keep it in court until his youngest finishes her master’s degree. I am told by a reliable source that in the 1947 stipulations it is expressly spelled out in convincing language that the Mahan land can never be used as a sewage dump.
Regardless, I’m for the Meigs site. We ought to form other piggy-piggy opportunities with our neighboring counties and – who knows – one day if these things work like we can believe, the city of Chattanooga and Hamilton County can be run as one family instead of two.