Commissioner Ed Elkins had voiced concerns about the county’s Stormwater Program at a recent meeting.
Byrd opined the media has blown the seriousness of pollution in Wilkerson Branch (in the Tasso community) out of proportion. He said there is no raw sewage flowing in the stream, although there is contamination. “Most streams on that side of the county have some E. coli,” Byrd said.
The county attorney also discounted the seriousness of the beaver dams (at this time). A Bradley County highway crew monitored the area following a recent storm and determined the overflow of water from the area of the dams does not impact the county’s road right-of-way.
Byrd said the residents where the dams are located have the authority to remove the beavers, since the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has confirmed this is not a jurisdictional wetland.
Barbara Gilbert, a resident of Royal Oaks Subdivision and spokesperson for residents who are impacted by the pollution, beavers and beaver dams, discounts Byrd’s opinion.
“We’ve done a series of tests, and there is human fecal matter in the stream,” she said, challenging commissioners to visit the area and put their hands in the water. “We do have beavers and the stream is stopped up,” she continued. “I appreciate the effort of everyone, but I feel the county owes the residents of Royal Oaks Subdivision an apology.”
Gilbert also questioned the criteria used to determine impact of the road right-of-way by flooding. She said Wilkerson Branch is not a tributary waterway, as claimed by the county attorney.
Byrd also opined that the liability of repair and clean-up of the pumping system and collection system at a nearby mobile home park (Peachtree Pointe on Michigan Avenue), believed to be causing the pollution, is not in the jurisdiction of the county.
He said the county cannot file notice on the owner of the mobile home park (Jerry Jacobson) or mobile home residents, because Wilkerson Creek is a tributary to Little Chatata Creek and eventually to the Conasauga watershed. He said the stream discharges directly from private property into a tributary of the “waters of Tennessee” and does not impact the county’s stormwater area at any point.
Byrd said (according to state statue) the Tennessee Commissioner of Environment and Conservation has the duty to exercise general supervision and control of the “quality” of all state waters. He said it is up to TDEC to “administer and enforce all laws relating to pollution of such waters and administer and enforce this part, and all standards, policies, rules and regulations promulgated under this part.”
According to Byrd, Dr. Richard Urban of the TDEC office in Chattanooga and his staff are in the process of meeting this responsibility.
He said the owner of the mobile home park (Jerry Jacobson), who lives in Dana Point, Calif., has been issued a second Notice of Violation and provided commissioners with a copy of that Notice. In reality, the mobile home park is owned by Silver Peach LLC, with Wynn Lanning of Sevierville the registered agent.
Jacobson reportedly has called the TDEC office, saying he did not know all this was going on.
Jacobson (or Silver Peach LLC) is facing the possibility of fines of up to $10,000 per day for each day during which the act or omission continues to occur.
The notice from TDEC claims “Peachtree Pointe Mobile Home Park sanitary sewer collection has never been permitted by the state of Tennessee.”
Required action from the owner is that he must contact Cleveland Utilities and make necessary arrangements to have the utility take over the operation and ownership of this system. The owner must also make appropriate repairs to the system as may be required by the utility. It is estimated the cost of this action could be more than $150,000.
TDEC says that until repairs have been completed, weekly E. coli samples must be collected from Wilkerson Branch downstream of the lift station at the road crossing of the steam. Jacobson must also submit a report each month to TDEC’s Chattanooga Field Office.
n A resident of Peachtree Pointe Mobile Home Park addressed the Commission at the conclusion of Monday’s meeting.
Jim Hyde said, “We did not cause this problem. We want to see this taken care of and cleaned up.” Hyde said he appreciates the efforts of the county attorney. “I will do whatever I can to help,” he said in conclusion.