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TCWN sues Chattanooga for Sewer Overflows

For Immediate Release: October 13, 2010
Contact:   Renée Victoria Hoyos 865.522.7007 x100 or cell 865.607.6618
Tennessee Clean Water Network sues the City of Chattanooga for violations of the Clean Water Act from Moccasin Bend Sewage Treatment Plant
Location – Chattanooga, TN
On August 2, 2010, the Tennessee Clean Water Network issued a 60-day notice of intent to sue the City of Chattanooga for violating its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for the Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant and Combined Sewer System by unpermitted discharges by its West and East Bank Outfalls; unpermitted Sanitary Sewer Overflows; exceedances of the maximum E. coli limit; and monitoring and reporting violations.
On October 13, 2010 TCWN followed up on the notice and filed suit in federal court.
The suit alleges that from January 2006 – June 2010, the City illegally discharged 319 million gallons of untreated sewage.  Untreated sewage can contain viruses, pathogens and toxic chemicals that can harm human and aquatic health.
“Our biggest concern is the unauthorized discharge of sewage from the west and east bank outfalls. These outfalls have put millions of gallons of raw sewage directly into the Tennessee River,” Says Renée Victoria Hoyos, Executive Director of TCWN. “Many communities downstream draw their drinking water from the Tennessee River.  It is our biggest priority to work with the City to fix these overflows as soon as possible.”
The suit claims that in the same time period, the City had 489 sanitary sewer overflows that dumped nearly 35 million gallons of raw sewage into nearby creeks, road, business and private residences.
“If you see any water coming from a manhole, stay away from it,” caution’s TCWN’s Executive Director. “This is untreated sewage that may carry viruses, pathogens and toxic chemicals.  Do not let children or pet play in or around puddles that are near these manholes. Try not to drive through them if you can.  Raw sewage can be a human health hazard.”
“We are confident that we can work with the City to achieve a solution that will clean up these sewer overflows. We have worked well with other cities on similar issues and are looking forward to assisting the City in any way we can.” Says TCWN’s Executive Director.  “To be fair, if the State had stepped in years ago and required that the City fix this problem, we would not be here today.”The Tennessee Clean Water Network has been very critical of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s enforcement program.  In a report release earlier this year TCWN described the program as woeful.
“In 2008, TDEC completed just 204 enforcement actions against polluters statewide. So far in 2010, the number of enforcement actions has dropped to 135 statewide.  Without robust enforcement, people like the residents of Chattanooga have to live with pollution that can harm their health. While we understand that enforcement may be unpopular in some circles, putting communities at risk for waterborne disease is no option,” says TCWN’s Executive Director, Renée Victoria Hoyos. “The Clean Water Act gives citizen’s the right to sue and that is what we have had to do.  These violations have been polluting Chattanooga’s streams and rivers for many years and they need to stop.”
TCWN has had success in a similar citizen suit.  In 2004, TCWN filed suit against the Knoxville Utility Board that was settled after the United States Environmental Protection Agency intervened which resulted in a consent order.  KUB has worked hard to comply with the order and has dramatically reduced their sanitary sewer overflows.
Untreated sewage can harbor pathogens, bacteria and chemicals that are unsafe. A recent Emory University study indicates that combined sewer overflow systems attract the mosquito responsible for the West Nile Virus.  To read the abstract of this study, click here.
To see the complaint and the notice letter, go to http://www.tcwn.org/cleanwater1
To read the TCWN Enforcement Report, go to http://www.tcwn.org/node/119

Tennessee Clean Water Network

625 Market St.
Knoxville, TN 37901
Mailing Address:
PO BOX 1521
Knoxville, TN 37901
Office: 865.522.7007
Fax: 865.525.4988