published Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Sewer moratorium lifted in Monteagle

Chief operator John Condra, left, and Jerome Blalock are seen Thursday with the ultraviolet treatment equipment, left, and aerators in the new Monteagle wastewater treatment plant. The facility has helped the town get out from under a sewer moratorium the state imposed in in January 2005.
Chief operator John Condra, left, and Jerome Blalock are seen Thursday with the ultraviolet treatment equipment, left, and aerators in the new Monteagle wastewater treatment plant. The facility has helped the town get out from under a sewer moratorium the state imposed in in January 2005.
Photo by John Rawlston.

VIOLATION TIMELINE

The agreed order issued in January 2005 contains information and the following findings from plant inspections conducted between September 2002 and September 2004 at Monteagle, Tenn.’s two wastewater treatment plants that have since been replaced by new treatment Plant No. 3:

PLANT 1

Sept. 12, 2002: Division of Water Pollution Control inspection at Plant 1 finds malfunctioning equipment, rust and lack of maintenance, evidence of overflows, marginal laboratory facilities and a lack of documentation of work.

Dec. 16, 2003: Division inspection at Plant 1 finds rust and lack of maintenance, out-of-service flow meter, a compliance report late by seven months, evidence of overflows, marginal laboratory facilities and a lack of documentation of work.

Sept. 7, 2004: Division inspection at Plant 1 finds failure to submit monthly reports required by permit, sludge stored without containment, effluent overflowing designed capacity, failure to collect samples for monitoring, sludge found stored within 10 feet of the receiving stream, failure to submit sludge handling analysis. No response from city on response requested by Oct. 8.

PLANT 2

Sept. 12, 2002: Division inspection at Plant 2 finds deterioration and trickling filter media in above- ground storage tanks, unsatisfactory receiving waters, marginal lab facilities, lack of maintenance of treatment units.

Dec. 16, 2003: Division inspection finds late reports and record-keeping mistakes, rust on storage tanks, lack of freeze protection, unsatisfactory effluent and receiving waters, inoperable flow meter, failure to submit agreed order progress report, marginal laboratory facilities, chronic problems from inflow and infiltration not addressed.

May 24-28, 2004: Division compliance evaluation and inspection finds accumulation of sludge in Trussell Creek, consultant hired by town.

June 24, 2004: Consultant reports filter unit does not treat sewage so that clarifier is only equipment providing treatment, gasses under blanket of sludge “burp” sludge into the next unit.

July 7, 2004: Division inspection and sampling finds tests for certain bacteria failed to meet requirements, excessive levels of ammonia as nitrogen, failure to consistently submit monthly reports, improperly stored sludge, midge larvae and over one foot of sludge deposits in receiving stream, failure to collect samples, marginal laboratory facilities, failure to document work, other failures regarding sludge handling leading to pollution.

Source: Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation

MONTEAGLE, Tenn. — The lifting Tuesday of a 2005 sewer moratorium on the town of Monteagle should set a local economic boost in motion, local officials say.

Monteagle Mayor Marilyn Campbell Nixon and Vice Mayor Lex Orr said Thursday at the town's new Wastewater Treatment Plant No. 3 that ending the state Department of Environment and Conservation's moratorium will benefit the town's economy and the three counties it joins — Grundy, Marion and Franklin.

Monteagle has potential as a tourist destination and as a gateway from Interstate 24 to its neighbors, but that starts with economic growth, Nixon said.

"Now all the puzzle pieces are fitting together," she said.

Monteagle originally had two wastewater treatment plants to serve the town and part of nearby Tracy City. Both discharged into Trussell and Juanita creeks, according to state officials.

In 2002, the Water Quality Control Board signed an order with both the town of Monteagle and the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly, outlining problems with the sewer lines that caused numerous sewage overflows, state officials said.

Improvements made from 2002 to 2004 were overshadowed by "more pronounced" treatment problems, leading to a 2005 state order to repair and upgrade treatment Plant No. 2 and repair or replace the aging sewer system. The 2005 order placed Monteagle on the moratorium.

In March 2009, a 50-year-old storage tank at Plant No. 1 collapsed, spilling more than 150,000 gallons of raw sewage into Juanita Creek, dramatically illustrating the sewage system's condition.

Nixon called the tank collapse a "turning point" that meant "we simply had to find a way to resolve these issues and move forward."

Now, Monteagle has a new $4.1 million treatment plant with a 500,000-gallon-per-day capacity, 90 percent of the town's infiltration and inflow has been removed from its collection system, manholes were replaced and all old sewer lines were eliminated, according to state officials. As part of improvements, plant operators implemented a capacity, management, operations and maintenance plan and a sewer overflow response plan, and both plants No. 1 and No. 2 were removed from service.

With sewer system woes behind them, area residents can starting thinking about the future, Nixon and Orr said.

The first visible sign will be requests for new sewer connections to homes and businesses for the first time in seven years, Orr said.

"Probably within the next 15 to 18 months you will see sizable retail growth," he said, adding that he couldn't put names to any interested parties since the moratorium was just lifted Tuesday.

Nixon and Orr said the town relies heavily on sales tax revenues generated through its location on Interstate 24 and as a gateway to nearby counties. With a lifted moratorium, new retail businesses can blossom to lighten the tax burden on Monteagle homeowners, they said.

State officials now are full of praise for the town.

"I wish to thank the town of Monteagle for partnering with the Department of Environment and Conservation as we have worked together to protect public health and the environment," TDEC Bureau of Environment Director Sandra K. Dudley stated in an Aug. 6 letter to Nixon acknowledging that the town has met all the requirements of the 2005 order.

"Mayor Nixon and the entire town of Monteagle should be commended for the community's cooperative spirit in proactively addressing its wastewater challenges, while positioning their town for long-term economic growth," TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau said in a statement released Tuesday.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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