The Harrison community may have its second landfill by this time next year.
On top of that, Harrison residents worry a sewage treatment plant will soon follow.
On Wednesday, the Hamilton County Commission approved a zoning request to use 25 acres of agricultural property for a construction-and-demolition landfill, situated next to the existing city sanitary dump on Birchwood Pike. Waste services company Santek previously operated a smaller construction and demolition facility next to the city landfill, but the company shut it down in March.
After the commission decision, landfill developer Greg Krum said, the next steps involve permitting for erosion control, approval from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the actual building of the landfill.
"We're probably looking at eight to 12 months," Krum said of the estimated time to open the landfill.
Harrison community spokesman Earnie Burfitt voiced disapproval of the commission's 7-2 vote to approve the zoning request and open the door for the landfill.
"We're very disappointed, but we're not through," Burfitt said outside the commission assembly room.
While the city's sanitary landfill accepts household garbage, typical construction-and-demolition landfill items include building wood, concrete, drywall, glass and tree stumps, according to the company's presentation to the commission.
Residents, many dressed in bright green T-shirts proclaiming "Keep Harrison Beautiful," have said they feared runoff from the dump would carry hazardous chemicals onto their properties and the river.
Burfitt said the community expects to face another environmental battle in the near future: a new sewage treatment plant operated by the Hamilton County Waste Water Treatment Authority.
"If we had defeated the zoning change here, we think that would have held up the [sewage treatment plant] process, because they are going to have to rezone land," Burfitt said. "We're terribly concerned it's going to go on that hillside, adjacent to the new C&D landfill. We're really not happy about that."
While WWTA has not announced final plans for the proposed treatment plant, agency officials have said they want to build it near the city landfill on Birchwood Pike to keep it away from residences. The facility would discharge treated sewage into the Tennessee River north of Harrison Bay State Park.
Krum said he plans to use the 25-acre site for the landfill and has not been approached about using it for a sewage treatment plant.
Commissioner Chester Bankston, who represents Harrison, voted against the zoning request. Commissioner Joe Graham did, too, after announcing he was undecided on the matter but would follow the lead of the community's representative.
"We do need this dump," Graham said. "Do we need it there? I don't know."
Commissioner Greg Beck said he felt assured by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency recommendation to approve the zoning request.
"There's no right or wrong," he said. "It's a preference whether you want this in your backyard."
Beck also recalled how no environmental regulations protected South Chattanooga decades ago.
"Well, we lived with it in our backyard when there were no regulations," he said. "But now, there are regulations, and I trust that this is going to be OK."