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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Center is seen Saturday, March 28, 2020, in Chattanooga.

The Chattanooga City Council next week will vote on whether to borrow $19 million from the state to make improvements to the city's wastewater treatment system, which has a history of sewage overflow issues.

The $19 million loan from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, which would have an estimated 1% interest rate, would 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.

"There is no general fund tax money [being used]," said Bill Payne, interim administrator of the city's public works department.

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

Councilman Isiah Hester of Washington Hills, who serves as the chair of the parks and public works committee, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Council chair Chip Henderson of Lookout Valley was unavailable for comment.

However, Payne and Mike Marino, program manager at Jacobs Engineering — which would handle the work if approved by the city council — said the $19 million would fund three steps of a 10-year project to rehabilitate the city's wastewater treatment system.

First, the funds would 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 would increase performance and reliability and ensure the integrity of the collection system capacity to the Moccasin Bend Environmental Campus, Payne said.

The second step would include 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.

"These projects are large pipes within the plant that need to be rehabilitated," Marino said.

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 would include 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.

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

The project is another in a series of responses to a 2013 consent decree with the state and the Tennessee Clean Water Network due to aging infrastructure that resulted in problems with sewage overflow and groundwater making its way into cracked piping. The work would be started early next year and completed in late 2024, Payne said.

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

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