Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority officials fielded questions Thursday night from several Red Bank residents who felt they shouldn’t have to pay for sewer repairs they may not need.
The authority’s board last month approved an inspection and repair program that includes an $8 monthly fee for 24,000 gravity sewer customers. The inspections and repairs would be for lines, called private service laterals, that connect homes to the main sewer lines.
About 30 people attended the public meeting at Red Bank Elementary School.
Red Bank resident David Hafley said he already has repaired his line and doesn’t want to have to pay again.
“We replaced the lateral,” he said. “The laterals in Red Bank in the ‘90s were (tested for problems).”
Despite that work, authority Board Chairman Henry Hoss said, the city of Red Bank is sending 10 times more wastewater to the Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant on rainy days than on dry days. Signal Mountain sends 12 times more water to its treatment plant, he said, and other municipalities have similar increases on rainy days.
The plan to repair the lines is meant to bring down the amount of rainwater in the system, because the authority is under order from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to reduce it, he said.
About 60 percent of the infiltration comes from private lateral service lines, authority Executive Director Cleveland Grimes said.
The inspections and repairs are going to cost more than $46 million, requiring the fee, Mr. Hoss said. Authority officials have said they may reconsider the fee plan.
Red Bank City Commissioner Ruth Jeno said $8 per month could be a huge cost for some residents.
“It could mean several days’ groceries for a senior citizen, or a prescription,” she said.
Ms. Jeno asked why the authority doesn’t require homeowners whose lines have problems to pay for their own repairs.
Mr. Hoss said that could lead to costly litigation that would hold up repairs. He also noted that it would be easier for a senior citizen to pay $8 per month than $3,000 to $5,000 to have his or her line repaired.
Ms. Jeno asked, “What if their sewer system’s fine?”
Mr. Hoss responded, “What if it’s not?”
Jerry Steiner, who said he worked with local sewer systems as a TVA employee, said authority officials were going to have problems asking customers for permission to come onto their property to make repairs.
“You’re hunting for a lot of trouble,” he said.
Mr. Grimes said he hoped people would give permission, since they will be paying the fee for inspections and repairs.
Red Bank resident Charles Thurman questioned whether the repairs will be effective.
“You can’t stop infiltration,” he said.
Mr. Thurman said Red Bank has spent $20 million to fix its sewer system and “we’re still where we were.”
Red Bank sewer customers pay $8.71 per month for debt on repairs made in the 1990s.