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Staff file photo / Water overflows from a storm drain on Lupton Drive, where a sign warns of sewer overflow. Three sewer rehabilitation projects aimed at stemming overflows and reducing inflow and infiltration of the sewer system are planned in Hamilton County, which will be funded using $15 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Hamilton County is expected to allocate $15 million in federal money to the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority for projects in Signal Mountain, Middle Valley and East Brainerd.

"This happens to be something I think we all know we're in dire need for," Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said of the sewer rehabilitation projects, which Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority Director Michael Patrick proposed to the county commission at its May 11 agenda session.

The $15 million, received through the American Rescue Plan Act, will be split among three projects, with $9 million going to the Signal Mountain project and $3 million each to the Middle Valley and East Brainerd projects. The Hamilton County Commission will vote Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. on a resolution to allocate the money.

All three projects will address significant issues with infiltration and inflow, or excess water that flows into the sewer system from groundwater and stormwater that overwhelms the system and causes overflows. Flow monitoring is used to determine which areas will benefit most from sewer rehabilitation projects, Patrick said.

The Signal Mountain project will remove sewer lines from Shoal Creek and Bee Branch, where frequent overflows occur.

Patrick said he is unsure whether the project will eliminate the sewer moratorium in effect on Signal Mountain since 2008, "but it will go a long way" toward doing so.

Officials from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation will decide whether the project's effects are sufficient to lift the moratorium, which is the only sewer moratorium in the county that was imposed by the state agency.

(READ MORE: Hamilton County sewer projects raise rates, aim to stem overflows)

The project in Middle Valley will address infiltration and inflow to that system, which is located in a potential growth area, Patrick said.

Wastewater leaves the Middle Valley and Hixson area through either the Soddy-Daisy or Middle Valley system to connect to the city of Chattanooga system around the Ramsgate subdivision near Valleybrook, Patrick said.

American Rescue Plan Act money was used for an authority project in the works on the Soddy-Daisy sewer system and a sewer rehabilitation project in Ooltewah, Coppinger said.

The East Brainerd project, which is also in a potential growth area, will involve rehabilitation of the existing sewer system in and around the Hurricane Creek pump station located near the intersection of East Brainerd and Ooltewah-Ringgold roads.

The projects are also expected to lower wastewater treatment costs paid to the city of Chattanooga, which charges based on the total volume of water — including groundwater and stormwater seeping in through broken pipes — coming in through the system rather than just wastewater.

Coppinger said the county currently pays about $10 million to Chattanooga to treat wastewater from the county, which does not have a treatment plant.

When asked by Commissioner Warren Mackey if the county needs a treatment plant, Patrick said the county potentially may need two treatment plants but the pipes must be fixed first.

"We must rehab our existing pipes," Patrick said. "Otherwise, we might overwhelm any treatment plant we might build."

Patrick said that without the recovery funds, authority ratepayers would be facing double-digit rate increases rather than single-digit increases to cover the cost of projects necessary to comply with a pending U.S. Environmental Protection Agency legal settlement.

The county is faced with spending upwards of $245 million to overhaul its sewage system as part of the settlement, a result of years of violations and millions of gallons of raw sewage spilling into local creeks and streams.

Coppinger told Patrick he hopes the authority will bring another improvement project to the county.

"This is exactly what that ARP money was designed to do and that's exactly where we're trying to spend it,"Coppinger said.

Contact Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6508.

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