County Commissioner Chester Bankston said consolidation of the city and county sewer programs "is the number one answer for our sewage problems."
"It's the best answer for our taxpayers and ratepayers," said the commissioner who serves on a committee of Ooltewah area residents looking into the sewage issue.
The panel is set to give its recommendations to officials of the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority (WWTA) on Monday.
Commissioner Bankston said current and past leaders of the WWTA are in favor of such a consolidation that would put the city's Moccasin Bend program together with the WWTA effort out in the unincorporated area and in several municipalities.
Commissioner Bankston indicated a consolidated program would have the city in charge since it oversees the huge Moccasin Bend treatment plant.
He said it is "a regional plant" so he would not foresee a problem with the city focusing on just areas within the city.
Commissioner Bankston said the "number two answer" is to bring to life an existing sewage treatment plant in East Ridge behind the hospital on Spring Creek Road.
He said that small plant could be retrofit "at $38 million cheaper for the taxpayers than building a whole new treatment plant out in the county."
The commissioner said sewage from the north part of the county could be routed to the East Ridge plant, while Moccasin Bend would continue to handle a large portion of the effluent.
County Commissioner Tim Boyd, who represents East Ridge, retorted, "Bankston needs to stop playing politics with his constituents and do the right thing for the entire community or perhaps he should reconsider his position and also forget considering septic systems. Let the good folks of Ooltewah and the north end of the county go back to chamber pots and out houses."
Commissioner Bankston said just utilizing septic tanks is not a valid solution for the growing Ooltewah area. He said, "it would require big lots."
He said he is in favor of "sewering all of the county," and he said consolidation is the best way to make that happen.
The committee was put together after the county set aside $45 million for a new sewage treatment plant to serve Ooltewah. However, the County Commission voted 5-4 against a proposed site on Mahan Gap Road.
County officials then said it would cost up to $25 million in additional funds for another location at Ooltewah that would be less ideally located.
The City Council is to vote soon on a resolution dealing with a study of the costs and benefits of a sewer consolidation.
The city has been under an expensive Consent Decree from the EPA for several years in an effort to eliminate periodic sewage overflows during rainy periods. The WWTA is facing a similar Consent Decree.