UPDATE: Chattanooga taxpayers to pay for sewage upgrades
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - Chattanooga taxpayers will foot the bill for hundreds of millions of dollars in sewage upgrades. Channel 3 is getting a clearer picture of what that includes. The Highland Park area will serve as a model.
Along with requiring hundreds of millions of dollars in sewer improvements, the government also fined the city $476,000. The city engineer explained that the EPA is allowing the city to spend half of that penalty money on adding green infrastructure to Highland Parks Sewer System, which is the first of its kind here.
"We had to deal with sewers backing up and the water and they had to come in a dig it up," Highland Park residents Carolyn and Anthony Strickland says.
"It floods the street and even the sidewalks you have to put your feet in the water," Highland Park resident Louis Roberts says.
Though Highland Park's aging sewer system has occasional problems with clogging, it's not a combined system, so it's not on the list the city is required to fix.
"Highland Park is one of the neighborhoods that gets neglected by the city," Highland Park resident Rita Guzman says.
Because the EPA is allowing that penalty money to be used on a green project, it will get the changes residents have been waiting for after all.
"I think it's exciting. It's a longtime coming and we've worked hard throughout many years trying to get the neighborhood looking good," Highland Park residents Linda and Richard Vaupel says.
City Engineer Bill Payne explains that Highland Park is closest to the Dobbs Branch Watershed.
"That watershed has been pretty high on the city's list of priorities for a while now, for the last 10-15 years," City Engineer Bill Payne says.
He says it's where all the pipes come together, and then pass downstream. He anticipates major changes once the new drainage system replaces concrete ditches and sewer grates.
"It's actually switching back to trying to mimic nature as opposed to just building a bigger pipe," Payne says.
It's supposed to also decrease pollutants in the water.
"Using natural systems with vegetation, trees and other ways that allow the water to infiltrate through the soil," Payne says.
Payne says the green system will be required state-wide a few years down the road, but now Highland Park is getting ahead, leading the way for the city.
"We think it's a great idea for Highland Park to be the leader in that," Richard Vaupel says.
Payne says the city hopes to add on to the project, possibly with help from area businesses.
Channel 3 spoke with Tennessee Temple University, which is the largest property in Highland Park. President Steve Echols says he's excited about the project, and looks forward to talking with the city about possibilities.
The city says its just beginning to work on preliminary designs and no construction timeline is set.