Soddy-Daisy resident Vicki Lawson's home isn't even connected to her city's sewer system.
But like others in Tennessee whose homes are on a street with a sewer line, state law allows her to be billed for sewer service even if she doesn't use it.
The law requires owners of all residential, commercial and industrial properties who are able to connect to a sanitary sewer line to do so, and to discontinue use of other means of waste disposal, such as a septic system, within 30 days of notification, according to Tennessee Code Annotated 7-35-201.
When Lawson moved into her home on Durham Street in September, she paid a deposit to North West Utility District for her water service and said she was not told at the time that she would be charged for sewer service. The charges didn't appear until about two weeks ago, when she received a bill for $91 — more than double the $35 she was charged for water alone.
The water company bills for sewer service provided by the Hamilton County Water & Waste Water Treatment Authority, which notified Lawson around the start of the coronavirus pandemic that she would have to start paying for sewer.
Numerous Soddy-Daisy residents have complained on the Nextdoor social media hub in the past two weeks that they are now being charged for sewer even though they use a septic system.
The authority's wastewater clerk, Bonnie Capley, said she doesn't know why a customer like Lawson wouldn't be billed for several months.
"The sewer is always expanding, and it could have fallen through the cracks," she said.
She said the the agency raises its rates every October to the same rate set by the city of Chattanooga.
Chattanooga began raising its sewer rates by about 10% annually starting in 2012.
Deborah Clift is Lawson's neighbor on Durham Street, and she said she has been charged for sewer ever since her home was connected several years ago when the line was put in. She and her husband were connected to the line free of charge by the city of Soddy-Daisy through a grant awarded to the city.
Clift said another neighbor continues to use a septic tank even though he's paying for sewer service, because he would have to purchase a pump to connect to sewer due to the way his home is situated. But despite the added expense, he's still legally required to connect because his home is less than 100 feet from an available line.
Soddy-Daisy City Manager Janice Cagle said the sewer line on Durham Street is the most recently installed line in the city. The majority of residential properties in the city are on septic systems, she said, and most of the city's sewer lines are in its newer subdivisions.
She said residents who are required to connect to the city's sewer lines must go through the the authority to do so.
Email Emily Crisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.