Sewage In Rogers And Wolftever Creeks - And Response

Friday, January 4, 2019
Sewage pump at Snowhill
Sewage pump at Snowhill

When I built my house next to Wolftever Creek in the late 90's I could not get a building permit until the Hamilton County Health Department approved my septic tank and field lines design for my lot.  No way would the system be allow close to the creek because sewage might contaminate the water.  Now I find that the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation would later approve Hamilton County's Waste Water Authority to place a sewage pump station next to Rogers Creek and this location is in a 100 year flood plain. 

Now, after the fact, I find that this facility has had 29 overflows of raw sewage spilling millions and millions of gallons of sewage into this small creek that most days is dry or has only standing water.  There probably has been more dumping of raw sewage into Rogers that has never been reported.  I couldn't believe that according to TDEC regulations that WWTA is only required to inform TDEC of overflows and spillages if WWTA has more than five in a 12 month period. Only then is WWTA required to notify the public by posting signs.  I never saw the first sign.  In the mean time young kids and adults were playing and swimming in Rogers and Wolftever these past years not knowing what they were gulping down. 

I noticed a remarkable change in the waters of Wolftever Creek in 2017 and 2018. Wolftever has been known for its abundance of fish, especially crappie.  In 2017 I caught three fish from my dock. In 2018 I did not catch one fish and did not have one strike.  The perch and bream that my granddaughter had caught in past years by the dozens didn't come back in 2018.  The creek's water was the nastiest green color I had ever noticed.  I am glad my granddaughter got in the water only once in 2018.  Young kids down stream were in that nasty, filthy water most every day and the WWTA, County Mayor Jim Coppinger, TDEC and the EPA didn't have the decency or didn't bother to let the property owners fronting these two creeks about the sewage problem.

My use of Wolftever Creek for recreational purposes has ended.  I won't get back in that water.  I know now that I will lose a sizeable amount of value if and when I ever sell this property.  I will have to let a prospective buyer know that there is a sewage facility upstream that is subject to overflowing and dumping raw sewage into Rogers Creek that flows into Wolftever Creek about 2,000 feet upstream.  The buyer should also know that Wolftever is the backwaters of Chickamauga Lake and most days is merely standing and stagnant with nowhere for the raw sewage to travel.  I estimate the damage to my property is in the range of $200,000 and up to $400,000 or more as of today.  The future growth in value will certainly be stymied.  The sales of property fronting on these two creeks will determine through the market as to the amount of damage sustained.  I fully expect Hamilton County to pay me for my loss once I can make that determination and prove the dollar amount.  Lake front property owners paid some of the highest tax bills in the county because of the location and the desire to live next to the water.  In real estate there is a rule of substitution.  A prospective buyer would find another water front property in an area without the sewage problem. 

There are 255 water front properties on Savannah Bay and Savannah Creek to where they meet up with Wolftever Creek.  The WWTA and County Mayor Jim Coppinger are wanting to build a waste water treatment plant on the Long Savannah Creek which is another mostly dry and standing water that flows into Savannah Bay another standing body of water.  These water front properties are valued by the Hamilton County Assessor of Property Office at $117,351,700.  Combine the Rogers Creek and Wolftever Creek property values with Savannah and that amounts to $164,206,207.  WWTA's Harrison says, "That to move the propose treatment plant to another location would cost somewhere around $20,000,000.  That is a drop in the bucket to what the cost Hamilton County taxpayers will have to pay the property owners on these waterways. 

I am writing State Rep. Mike Carter and State Senator Bo Watson asking them to consider passing legislation requiring waster water facilities to notify water front property owners of the spills and overflows of raw sewage into waterways immediately and on the first occasion, not the on the sixth.  Ridiculous that TDEC only requires signs being posted on the fifth spills or overflows.  I am writing the EPA requesting that they take samples of the water in Rogers and Wolftever plus sample of the sediment along these creeks and report their findings.  I believe much of this raw sewage would settle into this standing waters bed and remain there.  The next spill or overflow providing I can learn of it, I am issuing a standing invitation to WWTA's Mark Harrison, County Mayor Jim Coppinger, TDEC Officials and EPA's official and Roy Exum to come to my dock and jump in the water and take down a few gulps of water and demonstrate to these parents that the water is fine so get the kids and join us.  Maybe a environmentalist will discover a small creature in the Long Savannah Creek that is about extinct and this could put the Waste Water Treatment Plant on hold for 50 years or more and the property owners in that area could continue to enjoy their way of life.  Here on Rogers and Wolftever Creeks we will have to continue to endure more raw sewage spills unless the property owners get  together and sue Hamilton County and force the removal of this sewage pump station out of this 100 years flood plain downstream. 

Ron Henderson 

* * * 

Ron,

I'm surprised that in all this discussion about WWTA, no one has said a thing about Collegedale. Wonder just how many sewer overflows they have reported to TDEC? Trust me when I say, they have many. All of them go straight into Wolftever creek.

I'm sure that the city of Chattanooga was more than happy to get rid of the Collegedale sewer pump station and let them have it back.

Ted Meyer

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