Chattanooga is getting ready to borrow $24 million for four clean-water projects under the city's consent decree, and is asking the public to weigh in.
The bulk of that money — $17 million – will go toward improvements in the Dobbs Branch Basin, which runs roughly west from the foot of Missionary Ridge. It passes near Oak Grove, East Lake and Park City before joining Chattanooga Creek on the south side of Interstate 24.
The rest will go to rehabilitate sewer lines in the South Chickamauga Creek area and build a new wastewater pump station at the Riverport near the Hamilton County Election Commission, also serving the South Chickamauga Creek area.
If you go
What: Public hearing on $24 million loan application for city sewer improvements
When: 6:30 p.m. Nov. 13
Where: Development Resource Center, 1250 S. Market St.
More information: bit.ly/ClearChattanooga, or call Jeffrey A. Rose, 423-643-7400
Jeffrey Rose, director of the Waste Resources Division in Chattanooga's Public Works Department, said the city is applying for the low-interest loan from the state's Clean Water Revolving Fund.
It's part of $264 million the city has committed to spend to date to stop sewage overflows into the Tennessee River under supervision of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency. The cost of repaying the loan is built into the city sewer fee.
The city signed the consent decree in 2013, after multiple lawsuits over raw sewage spilling into the Tennessee River, and is a little more than halfway through the first phase of rehabilitation and repair ahead of a July 2020 deadline, Rose said.
"We didn't do a lot of work on our sewer system for decades," he said, until federal authorities stepped in to enforce the federal Clean Water Act.
Dobbs Branch is an example of what many of the 86 projects the city is now working on look like: Inspecting old sewer lines, repairing them and sealing them — often using flexible liners — to keep rainwater and groundwater from infiltrating the pipes.
Infiltration is what causes the sewer overflows. The flooded sewer lines send more wastewater to the Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant than it can handle, and the excess gets dumped into the river to contaminate the water. The West Bank Sanitary Sewer Overflow is right across the river from what eventually will be the visitors center at the Moccasin Bend unit of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.
Public Works Administrator Justin Holland said he's been communicating with park superintendent Brad Bennett about the city's wastewater plans.
"He understands the problem," Holland said. "It poses some problems, but he likes our solution to making this overflow go away."
Contact staff writer Judy Walton at email@example.com or 423-757-6416.