How Can City, WWTA Get Away With Chronic Sewage Discharges Onto Our Streets?

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

A wastewater or service utility is simply a defined service in exchange for a fee.


What if I pay a utility fee in exchange for a defined service, and the utility fails to deliver the service as agreed?


As an example, I pay a private solid waste collection service to collect, transport, and dispose of garbage.

Municipalities also operate waste collection and disposal.


In exchange for a monthly fee, an agreement to place the containers at the public roadway on a specific day and time, the waste collection service empties the containers, collects, and transports the waste for lawful disposal at an approved municipal landfill.  


This is a defined utility service, the private company collects my household waste, transports, and disposes of the waste in a lawful manner at a landfill in exchange for a fee.


What if I paid the private garbage service fee, and their truck collected my household waste and dumped the waste in ditches and in a public street?


I can assure you the wrath of every government agency in Hamilton County would be taking action against my private waste disposal service company.  The charges by government would likely be compromising public health violations, obstructing public streets, and the list goes on.


I don’t believe anyone would disagree that Hamilton County and the city would be well within their rights in their responsibility to preserve public health.


We the people would demand action to ensure that the public health nuisance would cease.


Yet, the response is quite different on wastewater being discharged to public streets and private property.


Many people pay the city of Chattanooga or the Hamilton County WWTA utility a monthly fee that is collected regardless of how poorly their utilities perform.  That is the difference in private vs. government utilities, accountability. 


The wastewater utility fee is paid for the purpose of delivery of defined service, or for WWTA and the city to collect, convey, and treat waste water from our homes in the interest of public health.


We would all agree that is the purpose of the wastewater fee, right?


Our local wastewater utilities are receiving mandated fees from citizens in exchange for the service of collecting, conveying and treating wastewater.  Yet, during many rainfall events the WWTA and city wastewater utilities are literally discharging waste to public roadways and ditches, which flows to private property.


I cannot identify a private sector that could discharge e coli and bacteria-ridden waste water into public streets with no consequences. If the private sector knowingly discharged waste into the streets at the same locations for over 10 years, county and city government would not tolerate this.


But not WWTA and the city, they just discharge until the EPA and TDEC demands civil penalties. 


The health aspects of discharging wastewater into public streets and ditches is so offensive, it must stop. The WWTA and the city of Chattanooga waste resources have locations that have discharged into public streets and ditches for over a decade.  I have acquired the bypass reports to TDEC.  It is a record of chronic failure.


The WWTA and city waste resources should be mandated to post their bypass reports on the municipal websites. We the people have a right to know where bypasses and wastewater discharges are occurring.


Our elected County Commission, WWTA, and the city of Chattanooga often whine that the EPA and TDEC is going to fine them.  Well duh, after reviewing a decade of bypass reports, I think EPA and TDEC has been negligent in their snail-paced response.  Our elected boards have placed we the people in a serious position of financial liability.


The elected boards are ultimately responsible for creating EPA and TDEC civil liability on the basis of failure to act. 


Both our city and county governments have failed miserably at instituting ample infiltration and inflow abatement programs.  Instead, they fund non-essential services, while wastewater flows over the potholes in our streets.


The city and WWTA wastewater utilities are authorized in Tennessee Code Annotated to charge mandated fees in exchange for collecting, conveying, and lawfully disposing of the wastewater at the treatment plant.


But wait a minute, what about failure to perform the service in exchange for the fee?


That is a fundamental problem, because citizens pay the mandated utility fee for their wastewater to be treated, not disposed of in public streets and ditches. 


I question whether the WWTA and city waste resources can assess citizens a fee to collect, convey, and treat wastewater in specific basins, when they are discharging into public streets, ditches, and private property.


Should WWTA and the city waste water be entitled to half a fee, for half a service?  Tennessee Code Annotated mandates a utility fee for the collection and treatment of wastewater?


What if the utility is not treating all the wastewater?


And what about the private property they are discharging bacteria-laden waste onto? 


As I see children play in local ditches, just like we did as children, I say to the WWTA and city resources, your poor performance is noted in decades of bypass reports, and your solutions are not well thought out. 


Bottom line, we the people pay extraordinarily well in taxes and fees for government schools, roadways, and infrastructure.  These government systems should not be chronic failures.


April Eidson

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