UPDATE: State and local officials work to resolve flooding, contamination issue
State and local officials met with residents in Ooltewah Friday morning about flooding problems on Hunter Road.
Seven homes are directly impacted by flooding and contaminated water.
Amy Maxwell, spokesperson for Hamilton County Emergency Management, says the flooding has caused millions of dollars in damages. She says the homes are on private property, and there is not much the agency can do.
“TDEC is available to provide technical assistance to local officials regarding issues of water quality. However, our regulations do not address flooding issues,” a TDEC spokesperson explained.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) collected water samples Friday morning. They are encouraging people in the area to avoid contact with the water. So far, homeowners have not evacuated since the floodwater has not entered their homes.
“I honestly feel like if this had been addressed a week and a half ago, it would've been far easier to solve,” said resident Emily Hardy.
For weeks, officials say vehicles, gas, oil and septic tanks have been submerged in water, causing contamination. TDEC officials also warned homeowners of E. Coli growing in the water.
State Representative Mike Carter grew up in the area. He says he got a call Wednesday about his old neighborhood. On Friday morning, he surveyed the flooding with homeowners.
“I'm staggered at what I see...I'm afraid of what I see,” he said. “There's a lot to do, but I feel like I'm standing at a forest fire with a 12-ounce bottle of water.”
Desperate for a solution, Carter called the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA). He said the agency is dispatching crews from Knoxville to help.
A spokesperson for TEMA confirmed the agency is working with Hamilton County officials, communicating with Carter and Hamilton County EMA Director Chris Adams.
"Director Adams explained to us that there are a couple of sink holes that are not accepting water due to either being clogged or because of the high water level, and the Flagstone entrance is actually in a basin," said TEMA spokesperson Dean Flener in an email to Channel 3.
"To pump onto other private property would risk endangering other residences," Flener added. "It would be taking it from one situation to another as there is not state or county right-of-way to which to pump the water."
Flener says there is no way to pump the water far enough from the impacted area to guarantee the water will not return. He tells Channel 3, contamination of the water is "a local matter."
“You've got about 6.4 million gallons of water out here, and if it rains two inches, you've got 500,000 gallons more tonight coming,” Carter explained. “We're looking for quick solutions, something to help us get through the weekend and then some solutions to get us through the problem overall.”
As local and state agencies try to remedy the flooding on the private property, homeowners are hoping for answers.
“We just need to have confidence that they're going to do their jobs,” Hardy said.
TDEC is encouraging homeowners who have concerns about their septic systems to contact the Hamilton County Building Inspection Department.