Vote set Wednesday for new wastewater plant site

WWTA Executive Director Mark Harrison

Hamilton County commissioners will vote Wednesday on a proposal to buy land for a new wastewater treatment plant in the north end of the county.

It's the first concrete step in a process county officials say will expand service to homes and businesses and help the area grow.

Mark Harrison, executive director of the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority, said the 150-acre site is west of the intersection of Mahan Gap and Ooltewah-Georgetown roads, with one border along Long Savannah Creek.

The county will pay $3 million for the property and closing costs. The plant is expected to cost $45 million and to come online in about seven years, Harrison said.

He said there are only a few residences close by but he's expecting at least some of them to raise a stink about the idea of a sewage treatment plant in their neighborhood.

"We're trying to do what is good for the county as a whole," he said.

As the north end of the county grows, it's more cost efficient to process wastewater there than to pump it to Chattanooga's wastewater plant at Moccasin Bend, he said. And the plant will allow service to be expanded throughout the fast-growing area, he added.

WWTA intends for the plant to be a good neighbor. Once the purchase is complete, Harrison said, his first step after hiring an engineer to design the facility will be to plant trees that will buffer the site from the road and the neighbors.

"Mostly people will see the entrance on Mahan Gap Road. The bulk of the plant will be away from the road and where there isn't a stand of vegetation minimizing the view, that's where we'll focus some of our plantings," he said.

And WWTA will be using new odor-control technology that's already greatly improved the air around the Moccasin Bend plant, he added.

Funding for the project will come from $125 million in bonds the county sold after last year's property tax increase to pay for the plant and a raft of school construction. The WWTA will repay the county from customer revenues.

Commissioners also will vote Wednesday whether to accept a donation of property from the McKee family for a new ambulance station that will serve Ooltewah, Collegedale and east Hamilton County.

County Engineer Todd Leamon told commissioners last week it will take six to nine months to design the station.

County Mayor Jim Coppinger thanked the McKee family for donating the $130,000 site in the best interest of Hamilton County.