Roy Exum: WWTA’s Sewage Spills

Wednesday, January 9, 2019 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I have before me a copy of a six-page letter that was mailed approximately two months ago to officials and board members of the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Authority. This letter, sent via certified mail from the State of Tennessee’s Department of Environment and Conservation, alleges that the WWTA between October 2017 and November 1, 2018, allowed over 2 million gallons of raw sewage to be spilled into Lake Chickamauga, its tributaries, and adjacent lands.

The letter cites 29 separate Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs) in the Ooltewah Basin area last year  – more specifically in the Rogers Branch tributary -- and each is considered a violation of WWTA’s Permit with the State, in addition to a number of state and federal water protection laws. The WWTA officials have already been called to meet with the federal Environment Protection Agency later this month in Atlanta.

The WWTA has been severely criticized by residents of Ooltewah and north Hamilton County for the past year. Part of the Hampton Creek golf course in now closed for sanitation reasons and untreated sewage is commonly seen flowing across Snow Hill Road. Because the problem hasn’t been addressed in recent years, the mess has grown into a gargantuan nightmare.

More recently, there has been a huge outcry over the now questionable location of a proposed water treatment facility on Mahan Gap Road in Ooltewah. The north Hamilton County area is one of the fastest growth areas in the state and desperately needs a modernized system to handle the bourgeoning sewer needs. It has been reported that last year over 1,400 septic tank permits were issued. While it will take at least two years to build such a facility, over 10,000 new homes will be built in the area at the same time.

The livid emotions and rattling rage will only intensify with each new day. Just wait until copies of the damning “Letter of Violations” is circulated and area residents learn that on September 24 of last year – in just one day -- over 1,636,188 gallons of sewage was spilled in Rogers Branch, which flows into Wolftever Creek before entering the Tennessee River near the Island Cove on Highway 58.

Other large spills include 107,376 gallons on Oct. 9 of last year, another 73,750 gallons on August 1, and 49,109 gallons on April 24.

The afflicted area is about 10 miles upstream from the Tennessee-American Water Company’s river intake facility that provides drinking water for Hamilton County and some outlying areas.

Here are the allegations and violation reports in the TDEC letter date November 1, 2018. It is believed there have been additional spills since the certified letter was written:

* * *

REVIEW OF MONTHLY ‘SANITARY SEWER OVERFLOW’ REPORTS

WWTA reports its Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs) via email and sends a summary to DWR each month. The following SSOs were reported in the Ooltewah area. Each SSO is a separate violation of Part C.3.b. of your permit.

LOCATION: OOLTEWAH MANHOLE 04307-02

* -- September 4, 2018 MH 04307-02 discharged 500 gallons to Roger's Branch

* -- August 20, 2018 MH 04307-02 discharged 1,875 gallons to Roger's Branch

* -- August 17, 2018 MH 04307-02 discharged 37,531 gallons to Roger's Branch

* -- August 12, 2018 MH 04307-02 discharged 7,875 gallons to Roger's Branch

* -- August 2, 2018 MH 04307-02 discharged 3,500 gallons to Roger's Branch

* -- July 21, 2018 MH 04307-02 discharged 36,875 gallons to Roger's Branch 

* -- June 29, 2018 MH 04307-02 discharged 15,000 gallons to Roger's Branch

* -- April 24, 2018 MH 04307-02 discharged 14,438 gallons to land

* -- October 9, 2017 MH 04307-02 discharged 107,376 gallons to Roger's Branch

LOCATION: OOLTEWAH MANHOLE 04307-03

* -- September 24, 2018 MH 04307-03 discharged 223,500 gallons to Roger's Branch

* -- September 10, 2018 MH 04307-03 discharged 9,250 gallons to Roger's Branch

* -- August 20, 2018 MH 04307-03 discharged 1,875 gallons to Roger's Branch  

* -- August 17, 2018 MH 04307-03 discharged 25,053 gallons to Roger's Branch

* -- August 12, 2018 MH 04307-03 discharged 12,000 to Roger's Branch

* -- August 2, 2018 MH 04307-03 discharged 3,500 gallons to Roger's Branch

* -- July 21, 2018 MH 04307-03 discharged 36,875 gallons to Roger's Branch

* -- April 24, 2018 MH 04307-03 discharged 49,109 gallons to land

LOCATION: OOLTEWAH MANHOLE 04307-04

* -- September 24, 2018 MH 04307-04 discharged 921,938 gallons to Roger's Branch

* -- September 10, 2018 MH 04307-04 discharged 18,500 gallons to Roger's Branch

* -- September 4, 2018 MH 04307-04 discharged 5,000 gallons to Roger's Branch

* -- August 20, 2018 MH 04307-04 discharged 18,750 gallons to Roger's Branch 

* -- August 12,2018 MH04307-04 discharged 73,750 gallons to Roger's Branch

LOCATION: OOLTEWAH MANHOLE 04307-01B (Snow Hill Pump Station)

* -- October 28, 2018 Snow Hill Pump station malfunctioned and discharged (amount omitted)

* -- September 4, 2018 MH04307-01B 100 gallons

* -- April 24, 2018 MH04307-01B 25 gallons to land

LOCATION: OOLTEWAH MANHOLE 99326-A09 and A09X (8402 Streamside Dr.)

* -- September 24, 2018 MH99326-A09 discharged 490,750 to Roger's Branch

* -- August 26, 2018 MH99326-A09X discharged 500 gallons to Roger's Branch

* -- August 13, 2018 MH99326-A09 discharged 38,000 gallons to Roger's Branch

* -- October 16, 2017 MH99326-A09X discharge 29,250 gallons to Roger's Branch

Your permit also requires that you specify what actions, if any, are taken to prevent adverse impacts to Waters of the State.

* * *

VIOLATIONS BETWEEN OCTOBER 1, 2017 UP TO NOVEMBER 1, 2018

* -- 29 SSOs in the Ooltewah Basin during 2018. Each SSO is a violation of Part C.3.b. of your permit.

* -- 9 of the SSOs occurring in Ooltewah from MH 04307-02 resulted in a discharge to Roger's Branch. Each discharge to Waters of the State is a violation of TCA 69-3-114 (a).

* -- 8 of the SSOs occurring in Ooltewah from MH 04307-03 resulted in a discharge to Roger's Branch. Each discharge to Waters of the State is a violation of TCA 69-3-114 (a).

* -- 5 of the SSOs occurring in Ooltewah from MH04307-04 resulted in a discharge to Roger's Branch. Each discharge to Waters of the State is a violation of TCA69-3-114 (a).

* -- 3 of the SSOs occurring in Ooltewah were from Snow Hill Pump Station and MH0430701 B

* -- 2 of the SSOs occurring at MH 99326-A09 (8402 Streamside Dr.) which resulted in a discharge to Roger's Branch. Each discharge to Waters of the State is a violation of TCA69-3-1 14 (a).

* -- 2 of the SSOs occurring at MH 99326-A09X (8402 Streamside Dr.) which resulted in a discharge to Roger's Branch. Each discharge to Waters of the State is a violation of TCA69-3-1 14 (a).

* -- On SSO reports, WWTA does not specify what actions, if any, are taken to prevent adverse impacts to Waters of the State. This is a violation of Part C.4. of your permit.

* * *

The violations notice was sent to Mark Harrison, WWTA executive director, and the group’s chairman, Mike Moon. Copies were sent to the WWTA board, which included (at the time) Jim Adams, Peter Avisto, Billy Cooper, Kenny Custer, Boyd Veal, Tyler Howell, Curtis Jones, Walker Jones, Bill McGriff, and Ed Watt. Michael Bascom of TDEC also received a copy.

royexum@aol.com


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