Community Questions Regarding the Signal Mountain Project
Q: I'd love for the WWTA to really listen to any design feedback about the station. I live in the Palisades neighborhood surrounding Green Gorge Park. It's an older established neighborhood and would love to see mountain stone incorporated into the design and different shades of green to help it blend in. Please see the architecture of the Mountain Arts Community Center and the stonework inside of the Althaus bathrooms. I want it to blend into the atheistic of the park as much as possible. The Parks and Tree Boards are working on a native plant ordinance so I also want native landscaping to be included as buffers is possible as well.
A: We agree that working with the Tree Board and the Parks Board is essential. We have already met with some of the representatives of both groups, and will continue to take these suggestions and find ways to partner.
Q: The project is definitely necessary. We would love to be able to play in the creek and rainbow lake safely! Most of my street, Arrow Drive, is on septic and would prefer to be on sewer. If there's a way to accommodate additions to the sewer system through this process, we'd appreciate it. We'd also prefer work to start at 9 instead of 8 to accommodate for morning traffic and commutes.
A: Thank you. We appreciate you taking the time to reach out to us. We will certainly look at start times more, especially in areas with the most traffic. Much of the work we are doing won't block traffic. As you may know, some of our work is on a tight timeline in order to receive certain federal funds and we are still working on all the moving pieces and timelines. As a public utility, we have a duty to be good stewards of our rate payer’s funds, and work hard to qualify for all the federal money available for this important work. Thank you again for taking the time to reach out to us.
Q: At the Town Council meeting, the pumping stations were explained along with a smaller pump of some type that would be installed at certain homes--specifically mentioning that Lookout has been using these for 20 years. I'm curious if the town/WWTA could move forward with installing these even while the pumping stations are discussed. I walk in Green Gorge almost daily with my dog and have seen the overflow in action. I agree that we are past due to fix the issue and I appreciate the work that has been put into researching our options. That being said, with the size of the gorge in general, I am not sure that adding sidewalks and even curbs there is a viable idea. There are certainly parts of the park where it simply wouldn't be possible because the drop off from the road is more or less immediate, and I wonder how much sidewalk could be installed that wouldn't go anywhere.
A: Thank you so much for reaching out to us. We appreciate the support, and agree we need to take action! If we receive the easements from the Town, some work can happen simultaneously. Right now we must fully complete the engineering design phase. The pump stations are under a funding deadline, so while some of the work will take priority, the grinder pumps are equally important and we are working hard on both. The sidewalk addition is a recommendation from the Planning Commission, and if the Town Council places this stipulation on the easement approval, we must follow it. Please reach out to your elected officials to share your thoughts about the sidewalk requirements for them to consider. Thank you again for your time.
Q: I am very glad to see the WWTA finally attempting to address the problems with our aging water system/lack of proper sewer on this mountain. It is unbelievable to me that we have failed to address the situation and allowed the sewer moratorium to drag on for literally decades. I understand why some people are angry because of the secrecy. Town officials should never operate that way. Transparency builds trust so please share information more willingly and openly. To those who are opposed to any changes, please try and remember there are probably only a few ways we can adapt / upgrade / work with what we already have in place on the mountain to address our WW deficiencies. We cannot simply do nothing - the system is literally crumbling around us - and the e coli levels in our groundwater are already unacceptable in some places. We have to let WWTA proceed with improvements to bring our water system up to appropriate 21st century levels of service.
A: Thank you for your feedback.
Q: Why are we treating the consent decree like a disclosure agreement? Are there plans to separate the sewer and storm water systems?
A: The consent decree is an agreement with the EPA that requires us to take steps to stop overflows. Currently, Signal Mountain does not have a combined sewer and storm water system. The problem occurs because creek water and rainwater enter breaks in the pipes and flood the system. This is not how the system is designed to work. In order to provide a long-term solution we need to re-route some of the gravity sanitary sewer system away from creeks and streams, and into areas that are easy to access and provide maintenance.
Q: I am strongly opposed to having a pump station in our area. Please use your back up plan and put it in a non-residential area.
A: Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us. The pump stations must be located near the place where overflows occur, and must intersect the gravity sewer lines at low points. There is no perfect solution, or a backup plan. The alternative would require us to significantly impact the ecosystem in park.
Q: Could you tell me the exact size of each pump station? And on a detailed map, the exact location of each station? Is it possible to have the bulk of the footprint underground with a small footprint above ground? Can you confirm the planned lights will only be used during maintenance or an emergency? Will the 18 mature trees that are being removed be replaced with mature trees as close to the original location as possible? Thank you!
A: Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us. The exact size of the pump station is 30x50. This is smaller than our traditional format, of 50x50. We are still determining the exact location, based on setback requirements and easements that we have requested. Most of the pump is underground, but we need room for maintenance vehicles, and equipment to access the station, as well as electrical components. The lights will only be used during maintenance or an emergency. We will work with the Parks Board and Tree Board to meet their requirements for a one-to-one replacement and plant trees based on their recommendations.
Q: There is a white survey mark on my property for proposed construction. I'd like to know what is being proposed to happen on my property. Who will be tasked with adjusting property tax rates for Signal residents affected by this sewer pump? Lookout Mountain residents get a tax variance for having to deal with the smell and poor appearance of their sewer pump. If this sewer pump will address the 40 overflows from Signal Mountain, what will happen to the remaining 76 overflows? How many sewer pumps will be going in other areas on Signal and where are those proposed areas? Tennessee law states that all sewer pumps must be as far as possible from residential areas, but this is right in the middle of a large residential area--why? I've visited other sewer pumps in our local area and they all smell, so please stop insulting us by saying they don't smell.
A: Thank you for reaching out to us. We are not involved in setting tax policy for the Town of Signal Mountain. The white line is how the survey team kept track of their work across the area. The number of overflows cumulative over the year, at several locations where they reoccur. And the number can change based on rainfall and other factors, so our goal is to reduce water entering the pipes in as many places as possible, especially to protect creeks and streams. We are working in three different ways to reduce water entering pipes, specifically by preventing water from entering the pipes as well as increasing capacity at the treatment plant. These are fixing the pipes we can access (those not in creeks), increasing capacity of the treatment plant, and abandoning some pipelines and intersecting those gravity lines to low-pressure. We are investing $20 million in the treatment plant, and another $20 million work on the mountain. We are rehabilitating pipes wherever we can using Cured-in-Place (CIPP) options which involves inserting a liner into the pipe and heating it to allow it to bond with the pipe. Using this method allows us to repair the pipe without digging it up. Once complete, we anticipate stopping the majority of the overflows. But unprecedented rainfall and other factors mean it's possible there may be some. Our goal is to eliminate chronic overflows into the creeks. The combination of solutions, not just the two pump stations, mitigate the risk of SSO’s occurring in Shoal Creek and elsewhere in the project areas. The locations of the pump stations are based on intersecting the current gravity sewer lines in order to avoid clear cutting and digging up the creeks and parks. Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us.
Q: Will this be adding sewer to homes on septic or will this be improving what already exists?
A: The current projects are to improve the current sanitary sewer system on Signal Mountain. The entire system is under a moratorium, imposed by TDEC. So we cannot add any new connections to the current sewer system. Once all the work is completed we will request a review, but it's not up to WWTA to lift the moratorium. Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us!
Q: In regards to the sewer pump station, has there been any research conducted by the WWTA examining health issues such as respiratory illness? Would WWTA address health concerns with station situated close to families?
A: Our project is targeted at addressing the current health issues within Shoal Creek. The proposed solutions will remove the sanitary sewer overflows that currently contaminate the water with E Coli. The pump stations will be equipped with odor control to mitigate any odors. Additionally these pump stations will be sealed and will not be open to the atmosphere except for during maintenance activities. It is not expected for there to be any respiratory concerns because these pump stations will not be open to the atmosphere regularly.
Q: According to minutes of the April Park Board meeting, these pumps were being discussed in April. Why weren’t we informed in April?
A: Thank you for reaching out to us. In April, we were in the early stages of submitting a request to The Land Trust, but we had not received their approval until May 25. We reached out to the Park Board to seek their feedback, and share early plans, but without the Land Trust approval. After we received approval under Section 7 we could move forward with the many other steps, including the Planning Commission, Town Council presentation, and public meetings. Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us.
Q: Thanks to WWTA and Jacobs for the Q&A session on 8/7. I appreciate the dispersed format of the session, which probably diffused the contentiousness of the situation. It was a good outline of the problem and the various technical issues at hand. The point in the process at which the public was invited to participate (essentially during preliminary design, at roughly 25% design completion) seems appropriate to me. I’m a professional engineer, and have no involvement in the project, other than being an affected homeowner.
A: Thank you for sharing your support with us and we are glad to hear the format worked well for you on Aug. 7. I hope our experts were able to answer any questions you had at the event. We will be continuing to reach out to the community with updates as they are available as we continue forward with the design.
Q: Provide grinder pump information.
A: Thank you for reaching out to us. You can visit the Signal Mountain page of our website to see an animation of the Grinder Pump. The homeowner will not be charged for installation, and HCWWTA will provide basic maintenance on the unit. Homeowners will be notified about the transition this fall if they are scheduled to receive a pump. Thank you. https://wwta.hamiltontn.gov/155/Signal-Mountain
Q: How many homes/businesses in Signal Mountain does this sewer line currently serve?
A: The line segment in the Park across from your property serves approximately 335 parcels. It appears that 307 of the parcels have some type of structure on them that may or may not be currently occupied.
Q: How many homes/businesses in Signal Mountain do you anticipate having when this project is completed?
A: Our plan is to improve the sewer system that flows near your property. There are no plans for a significant number of additional customers to be added to this segment of sewer line.
Q: For pumps this size, how many homes/businesses would WWTA potentially be able to serve?
A: The pump stations are sized to meet the needs of the community and are not sized for to support a large increase, although new connections from failing septic tanks will be considered at some point in the future.
Q: Are you expecting an increase in ratepayers?
A: It is possible that additional connections may be allowed due to failing septic tanks at some point in the future.
Q: Could this line connect with sewer lines in Walden or further back on the mountain at some point?
A: There is no WWTA plan for connections outside the Town of Signal Mountain.
Q: Is this in any way related to the Land Use Plan on Walden’s town website that indicates that wastewater treatment is a significant constraint to the town of Walden & has stymied its potential for growth?
A: The WWTA has had no conversations with Walden about their Land Use Plan.
Q: They indicate that they would like to continue to work with Signal Mountain on a comprehensive sewer strategy. Is this potentially part of that strategy?
A: The goal of these projects is removing extraneous water from the existing sewer system and preventing overflows inside the Town of Signal Mountain.
Q: Is there actual data analysis that shows the pump stations are a better option over replacing the existing lines? I saw the presentation at the Q & A but still have this question. Pump stations will become a permanent fixture to the park (& residential neighborhood), the lines are there now & will continue to be (just capped). Why not replace/rehab them? How is the construction necessary to replace the lines that much more impactful over two pump station construction projects? Vegetation will all grow back over time - these pump stations will become a permanent unnatural fixture to the park, & again, to the neighborhood.
A: Rehabilitation of sewer lines is not an exact science. Generally, rehabilitation results in about 40% to 70% extraneous water removal. Because of the proximity of the existing lines to the creek, the 40% (or less) result is a more likely outcome. Replacement of the lines at or near their current location as required by gravity flow will yield similar results. Completely removing the possibility of creek contact with the sewer lines is the only sure method of removing the extraneous water that is causing the sewer overflows.
Q: How was it determined that this was the best location for the pumps, when sewer pumps are supposed to be placed away from residential areas? I fully understand the answer that this is where the convergence of the lines is - but what if this convergence had been on private property? Would the pump go at that exact point, even if on private property, or would some work around/solution be found?
A: The scenario you are describing is what occurs above the park. The result is more individual grinder pumps with no possibility to consolidate the infrastructure to reduce maintenance requirements.
Q: Is there honestly not another solution / location that would work, that is away from residences?
A: Unfortunately, there are no large, empty parcels of land that would work. If there were, we would use them.
Q: Can you please give more detail on the construction phase(s)?
A: As we are early in the process, we do not have more detail on the construction phases but will be updating the community as more information becomes available.
Q: At the Q & A the only direct answer we heard was that jackhammers/high powered “drill” type equipment would be required to get through the rock, & it was estimated that these pieces of equipment would be running for SIXTY days. Is this correct?
A: We are exploring options to minimize the timeline and will provide more information as our plans develop.
Q: How do you ensure that homes in the near vicinity can withstand this type of construction? Are you working with a structural engineer?
A: Vibration monitoring may be used to monitor construction activities.
Q: What type of assurance are you going to offer to homeowners nearby?
A: Our engineers do not anticipate that the construction will have any structural effect on homes in the vicinity of the pump stations.
Q: How long will roads be torn up & which roads specifically?
A: We expect during construction, that there will still be access to your driveways and roads. Emergency equipment will be able to access. We are too early in the process to give schedules and locations.
Q: Is the end date to all of this construction August 2026?
A: No. August 2026 is the date that certain available federal funds will expire.
Q: What happens if it is not completed at that time?
A: These funds will no longer be available and we would look for other revenue sources.
Q: Where is a list of your pump stations? Specifically interested in the ones in residential areas, but would like to see a comprehensive list. Snow Hill seems to be the main one everyone knows of; would like to see other options as well.
A: We manage one other pump station on Signal Mountain, at Nolan Elementary School, but we have no other facilities that are similar in size and design to what we are proposing for Signal Mountain. The design for the proposed stations will fit into the park setting.
Q: In the original presentation by Jacobs 20 trees were set to be removed, but now only 18 trees are going to be removed according to the letter received today. Additionally, will the pumps have to be moved so they are not underneath the power lines? Now that EPB has cleared so much from the Druid drive site it seems like the electric would go over top the pumps.
A: Thank you for reaching out. There are a number of mature trees that will need to be removed for this project and we are working on lessening that amount. The project is at 30% design at the moment and this number could change. Overall our goal is to minimize the amount of disturbance in the park as much as possible. The WWTA will be coordinating with EPB in the future to work on any utility conflicts.
Q: I am currently on septic but interested in moving to the sewer system. What are my options?
A: We are in the process of determining the layout of the low-pressure system. It may be possible for your property to connect but that is yet to be determined.