Sewer feasibility study being done for all the wrong reasons

Posted 2/16/20

To The Editor: Recently, there has been talk of a sewer feasibility study in Bradley County. I’m a Bradley County rural homeowner and I’m opposed to sewer expansion. By far, sewer expansion does …

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Sewer feasibility study being done for all the wrong reasons

To The Editor:
Recently, there has been talk of a sewer feasibility study in Bradley County. I’m a Bradley County rural homeowner and I’m opposed to sewer expansion.
By far, sewer expansion does not typically benefit most rural homeowners. Sewer expansion is most beneficial to developers who want to create new subdivisions out in the country. Sewer connections benefit developers because they do not have to space out houses as much and can build more houses, and therefore generate more profit.
It is well known that septic systems need a larger-sized lot in order to facilitate proper drainage.
We bought our house specifically because it was in a rural location. When we started house-shopping, finding a house in a beautiful rural spot was our dream. When we found our current home, we were thrilled. We were also very comfortable with the lack of public utilities there.
We had our well water tested and maintain our septic system on the schedule recommended by our service provider. We are happy with things as they currently are and are having no problems with our systems. If we ever do develop problems, we’ll fix them when they occur.
We don’t want or need the burden of the government coming in and telling us that we need to purchase something that we don’t need. Unfortunately, because of a prior Supreme Court decision, residents can get billed for sewer even if they’re not connected to it, just because it’s available in the area.
Most other things in life don’t work that way. I don’t own a TV. I haul my own garbage and recycling, and choose not to be connected to city water. I don’t get a cable bill, a water bill or a garbage bill, just because those services are all available to me. For that matter, electricity is elective, too. If I choose to install solar panels and go off grid, Volunteer Energy will stop billing me. How is it right for companies to charge for a service that isn’t being rendered?
The upfront cost of connecting to a sewer system can run into the thousands. It is not uncommon for homeowners to be put on a 20-year payment plan, as the cost of these sewer connections can run up to $20,000. That doesn’t include the monthly wastewater bills which can be quite high and can be subject to increases.
With the staggering costs of connecting to a public sewer system, what will the elderly on a fixed income do? Will they choose to pay for a service that they don’t need? Or, will they pay for heat, food and medicine? What about people who’ve lost their job? Will they get liens on their property for the crime of using their functional septic system rather than paying out thousands of dollars for a system that they don’t need and can’t afford?
Ironically, the ones least likely to be able to afford connections are also the least able to get a loan to pay for them. Most banks aren’t going to want to loan to the unemployed, the seniors on a very limited income, or other people with very limited assets.
Is the government going to take these people’s homes or subject them to fines, all in the name of protecting the good of developers? It certainly isn’t for the homeowners’ good.
If they are concerned about homeowners, an easy way to help is to provide grants to fix septic system problems. That would cost much less than the millions of dollars required for sewer infrastructure and would allow homeowners not to have to shoulder an unnecessary burden.
I’ve heard it argued that septic systems are overflowing and that the cost to pump a septic tank is too high. We pumped our system as a preventative measure last fall. We called a popular septic company that services Bradley County and the surrounding counties. The total cost of our septic-tank service was $225. 
The servicemen said that everything looked great and that we could have it pumped again in five years. If $225 every five years is really too much for rural homeowners to pay, then expecting them to pay the cost to connect to a public sewer system isn’t the answer.
I’m concerned also that we’re diverting tax dollars to studying sewer infrastructure feasibility that are desperately needed to deal with other critical issues in the county. When I’ve dealt with stray dogs on my property, I’ve been
informed that Animal Control doesn’t enforce leash laws outside of the city limits.
Why are we putting money into studying sewer infrastructure if we can’t control dangerous animals properly? Residents of rural Bradley County shouldn’t have to fear for their safety or their children’s safety while walking outside.
Let’s put our dollars into useful things and not into financially oppressing the rural homeowners of Bradley County.
—Ruth Jaeger


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