Former Chattanooga mayor Ron Littlefield says he warned Tennessee American Water
Water main breaks in Chattanooga no longer surprise former Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield.
“They've known it for a long time that they've got old crumbling pipes,” he said. “I could give anyone a long list of the failures that have occurred in my time in government which dates back to the 70's.”
Prior to becoming mayor, Littlefield was a city planner in the 70's. During that time, the city was rebuilding Market Street.
“We told all the utilities alright we've dug up the street, repair and replace your utilities. Ideally replace them because some of them were in wooden casings and so forth,” Littlefield said.
But he says Tennessee American Water (TAW) declined, claiming their lines were fine.
“As soon as we got the area repaved after extensive and expensive work, I mean immediately. The pavement was still hot and they had three breaks that pushed up the street, broke up the new sidewalk.”
Years later in 2005, Littlefield became mayor. During his term, his office did a study on the water system and TAW’s lines in the Bonny Oaks area.
“We knew there were points that they could be tied together and in the event of an emergency, that pressure could be maintained,” Littlefield said.
He says the private company declined again. Littlefield says that warning alone could have prevented Friday's water main break.
“It's their fault because they don't maintain their system,” he said. “This illustrates to me that they haven't really come up to a level that a city like Chattanooga deserves.”
Channel 3 shared Littlefield's comments with TAW’s spokesperson Daphne Kirksey.
She responded through email, quoting Director of Operations Kevin Kruchinski:
He says, “Tennessee American Water regularly evaluates its assets and operations, and considers options to enhance the resiliency of our system including but not limited to the feasibility of interconnections.”
Littlefield is now urging public officials to hold TAW accountable.
“I'm sure Tennessee American Water would say as they have always, everything's fine. We've got it covered. I've heard that so many times over the years, but I urge public officials to not just except their word for it. Push as we did,” he said.
Channel 3 reached out to Mayor Andy Berke’s office for comment. City spokesperson Richel Albright released the following statement:
“The City has no direct regulatory power over Tennessee American Water Company. However, Mayor Berke has informed Tennessee American Water leadership that he wants to have a debrief of what caused the break and what kind of impact it had on our community. No date has been set.”