Raising sewer rates $8 a month is just as unpopular now as it was when the WWTA board approved the hike in May, but many East Ridge opponents fear their anger will do little to change the outcome.
“They know it’s a done deal, so we’re really wasting time here,” said Labron Meadows, of East Ridge, who attended the last of the Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority public meetings at the East Ridge Community Center on Thursday night.
Following a March order by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to stem the flow of runoff into the Tennessee River within three years or face a $257,000 fee, the WWTA approved the surcharge to be added to the monthly bills of 24,000 homes and businesses in the county that rely on gravity sewer systems.
The added $96 a year would cover inspection and repair to the sewer lines that connect individual homes to the main lines at a fraction of the estimated $3,500 it would cost homeowners to repair the sewers themselves, WWTA board Chairman Henry Hoss said. Under a similar order by TDEC, Mr. Hoss told about 20 people at the meeting, Knoxville residents were given 180 days to inspect and fix their own lines.
Tom Card, East Ridge City Council member and representative to the WWTA, said the controversial fee will best meet the needs of the community, which contains about 135 miles of the about 400 miles of sewer lines the authority maintains.
“This is probably the best deal that’s going to come along because we’ve probably got the worst sewer lines in the WWTA,” he said.
But for East Ridge residents Pat and Tom Cheatham, who refinanced their home two years ago to pay for repairs to their sewer line, the rate hike feels like a punishment to those who did the right thing.
“I am not paying that bill,” Mrs. Cheatham said after walking out of the meeting. “They can take me to jail.”
The WWTA board will meet Aug. 27 to decide how to respond to the TDEC order. The fee could go into effect as early as January, Mr. Card said.