The first round of sewer repairs should come within nine to 10 months after the City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed a series of expenditures totaling almost $38 million.
"They have to be done," said Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd. "It's in the agreement. There's nothing to do but move forward with the projects."
The City Council voted on 13 resolutions Tuesday night related to a $250 million sewer consent decree handed down by the U.S. Department of Justice last year. The city had been in negotiations with the DOJ, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for several years.
The order dictates the city must do massive improvement over the next 16 years with the bulk of the projects coming within the first five years.
Mike Marino, operations manager at Jacobs Engineering, said the majority of the projects would be in design over the next several months. One of the most massive projects is an $18 million overhaul in East Brainerd that will include a new pump station and new lining throughout the area's sewer system.
Alice Cannella, interim director of the city's wastewater resources division, said her first priority she would hope to see change is the existing disinfectant process at the Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant.
"The current system is old and outdated," she said. "It's also more hazardous."
The current way of disinfecting the product at the plant is using highly toxic chlorine gas, she said. The plant will be moving to a less toxic bleaching system.
The council approved the items with limited discussion.
Councilwoman Carol Berz spoke up during a special called meeting asking if there were any particular questions council members should ask. Marino told her that it was protocol for the council to approve any expenditures, but everything had already been set out within the consent decree, which is set to be signed by a judge.
"This is something we have to do," Berz said.