Bagwell City neighborhood residents hate sewage overflows, but they're also not too crazy about the city's plan to fix the problem.
Heavy rainfalls have caused Chattanooga's wastewater system to flood the streets and yards of the neighborhood for many years, repeatedly exposing the community to raw sewage and stench.
The city's solution calls for building a 7.5-million-gallon wet-weather wastewater storage tank next to the neighborhood. The domed tank, which will stand 45 feet tall and measure 210 feet at its base, will support a sewage pump station located near Memphis Street, just west of DuPont Parkway.
Community members recently voiced their opposition before the Chattanooga City Council.
"We agree with the solution, we do not agree with its location," Mark Mullins, president of the Fairfax Heights/Bagwell City Neighborhood Association, said. "They have terrible sewer issues down in Bagwell City."
Mullins and others asked why the city could not place the facility on the other side of DuPont Parkway, closer to McKamey Animal Center.
Danny Grimmett, who lives close to the DuPont Pump Station, spoke at length against expanding it.
"Put this storage tank up on the Enclave [luxury home] subdivision and see what happens," Grimmett said. "Just because we don't have $500,000 houses where we live doesn't mean we need to be exposed to a harmful environment. We, the people of Bagwell City, who live in this community, are sick of it."
Grimmett presented a petition, which he said had 126 signatures representing 130 households that want the pumping station moved out of the neighborhood and for new construction to take place in "an uninhabited area where kids don't play."
The DuPont Pump Station overhaul falls under the umbrella of Chattanooga's $250 million, 17-year consent decree with the U.S Environmental Protection Agency to control sewage overflows, which ultimately flow into the Tennessee River.
The program calls for repairs, replacements and improvements to the city's wastewater system. Key objectives are to prevent stormwater from getting into the sewage network in the first place and increasing the system's capacity.
Chattanooga Public Works Administrator Justin Holland said the DuPont sewer network was on the initial target list when the city launched its mandated wastewater system overhaul in 2013.
The city began an $8 million rehabilitative construction project for the DuPont area last year, which called for repairing, replacing or relocating wastewater lines, he said. The second phase, expected to launch this summer, calls for the construction of the $12 million wet-weather storage tank and backup pump. All equipment will have odor control systems, he said.
"This wet-weather storage tank project is strategically designed and situated along a main sewer line in a low area where the $21 million investment will be most effective at preventing sewer overflows and creating capacity during a wet weather event," Holland said. "Moving the tank to another location nearby would require millions of dollars in additional funding and significant delays in the capacity assurance program that was approved earlier in the year by the EPA as part of the consent decree."
The improvements are necessarily to address the "chronic overflows" experienced by the community, which has grown substantially since the pump station was built 25 years ago, Holland said.
The city opened bids for the project on Thursday, and the public works department will make a recommendation to the city council after a period of evaluation, he said.
Bid documents give the winning contractor 400 construction days to complete the project, requiring "substantial completion" by or before April 2018.
Tyner residents made similar complaints last fall when the city proposed building a wet-weather storage tank to control overflows near Friars Branch.
At the time, Mike Patrick, director of the Waste Resources Division of Chattanooga Public Works, told those residents he did not believe unpleasant smells would be an issue because the tank would be used only during wet weather, not dry weather, "which is the highest odor time."
Patrick also underscored the inclusion of odor controls, which the department uses in its other wastewater facilities.
Grimmett painted an ugly picture of the sewage overflows the city seeks to prevent.
"This hazardous waste has also soaked up in our yards and washed up on our streets where kids play and our neighbors walk," he said. "The smell of raw sewage, every day, is 24/7."
Grimmett also complained that public works crews had committed environmental violations when they recently performed cleanup work after a sewage overflow, citing a video posted on YouTube.
Holland said his department alerts the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation within 24 hours of an overflow and then reports what it did to address the problem. The department uses chlorinated water to clean station facilities and road surfaces, a normal protocol, he said.
Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @pleach_tfp.