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Chattanooga's waste water treatment plant at Moccasin bend is shown in this 2011 staff file photo.

Hamilton County's sewer authority says any agreement between Chattanooga and county officials on a potential sewer merger will require that the Moccasin Bend treatment plant be able to handle Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority sewage flow.

Consolidation talk has been intensifying as the WWTA negotiates terms of a $245 million consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Justice and Tennessee authorities after years of Clean Water Act violations and millions of gallons of sewage spilled into local waterways.

In recent months, both the Hamilton County Commission and Chattanooga City Council have discussed potential joint projects, amplifying beliefs that the city is in the midst of a full sewage takeover of county operations.

In a statement Wednesday, the WWTA said both entities have "expressed support for research that could result in a system that could operate more efficiently and be able to handle the WWTA flow" at Moccasin Bend.

In March, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger went before the WWTA board to address concerns and allay members' worries about a takeover, saying it would be in the best interest of both the city and county to look at a cooperative agreement while considering future growth.

He also said members' efforts to improve the county's wastewater situation haven't gone unnoticed.

"There's been a whole lot of rhetoric ramped up over the past year that WWTA is the piñata of this county, and in my opinion, that's a little bit unfair," he said at the time. "I have a lot of respect for the people that work here, and I want you to know that."

WWTA came under fire last year after proposing to build a $45 million waste treatment plant in Ooltewah. The plan drew harsh criticism from residents and ultimately was shelved after county commissioners voted against a special permit for the project.

Now, the authority says it will work to expand capacity in its system, as well as those of Collegedale and Chattanooga, including at Moccasin Bend.

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