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Staff file photo by Troy Stolt / The Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Center is seen on Saturday, March 28, 2020, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Chattanooga City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a $19 million loan from the state to prevent sewage overflows.

The Chattanooga City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a $19 million loan from the state to make improvements to its wastewater treatment system that officials say will cut back on sewage overflow.

The loan will help fund the city's part of a 2013 agreement with the state and the Tennessee Clean Water Network to address aging infrastructure that had resulted in problems with sewage overflow and groundwater making its way into cracked piping. The improvement work would begin early next year and be complete in late 2024, according to city officials.

"Nobody, nobody wants to live in a city walking around in sewage," said council chair Chip Henderson of Lookout Valley. "And basically what we're doing is cleaning that up."

The $19 million loan from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, which will have an estimated 1% interest rate, will bolster a $15 million loan from last year.

Project cost estimates range from $34 million to $39.1 million, so any remaining funds that would be required would be taken from sewer rate fees.

"It's crucial for the neighborhoods," said Councilman Isaiah Hester of Washington Hills, who chairs the council's parks and public works committee. "One impact [of the work] is that you feel safe. One of the problems associated with flooding is rodents and all type of pests."

Last week, Bill Payne, interim administrator of the city's public works department, said the $19 million will fund three steps of a 10-year project to rehabilitate the city's wastewater treatment system.

(READ MORE: Consent decree in works as WWTA plans $245 million upgrade to sewage systems)

First, the funds will allow the city to rehabilitate approximately 1,600 feet of pressurized pipe from the Citico pump station on the south side of the Tennessee River, spanning the river and connecting to the interceptor sewer system on the north side of the river.

(READ MORE: Hamilton County sewer authority plans $22.5 million in upgrades to fix current system)

Those repairs will increase performance and reliability and ensure the integrity of the collection system capacity to the Moccasin Bend Environmental Campus, Payne said.

The second step includes the design and construction of parallel piping to allow for increased performance and reliability in the liquids handling processes at the Moccasin Bend Environmental Campus.

(READ MORE: Hamilton County sewer rates increasing next month)

The final portion of the project covered by the funding includes the design and construction of a new flow equalization station near the Wood Recycling Center on North Hawthorne Street.

That project includes a new wet weather pump station and approximately 10 million gallons of capacity to store excess storm and wastewater and then release it back to the system when capacity is restored, which typically occurs within 48 hours, Payne said.

Contact Logan Hullinger at lhullinger@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LoganHullinger.

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