This is the same report issued to members of the Cleveland Utilities Board in August and nothing has changed in the past 30 days.
“We have not found anything,” Water Division Manager Craig Mullinax told board members Wednesday in a formal session at the Mountain View Inn. Water samples for E. coli pollutants and daily visual inspections in the area of the unlicensed sewage collection and lift station have indicated no connection, the water manager added.
Still, Cleveland Utilities continues to work with mobile home park owner Jerry Jacobson and the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation (Division of Water Pollution Control) to bring the collection system to a high enough set of standards that its operations can be taken over by the local public utility.
“The state wants us to take it over ... we’re willing to take it over,” Mullinax said. “But there are some things that still need to be brought to our standards.”
Mullinax said the mobile home park owner continues to cooperate with CU and state crews in resolving the contamination problem; however, he acknowledged that Jacobson has not agreed to pay for all system improvements that Cleveland Utilities feels are needed prior to a transfer in system ownership.
“We’re still trying to get there, but we’re not there yet,” Mullinax said of a future transition which TDEC has mandated.
Of the collection system’s and lift station’s operation, Mullinax said it is operating properly. “Everything seems to be fine” and the system is not being overloaded, Mullinax said. Subsequently, no direct flow of sewage into the creek is being found anywhere near the station.
Mullinax said he is attempting to facilitate a meeting between TDEC, CU and the mobile home park owner. A couple of recently scheduled meetings have been canceled.
In response to board members’ questions about the next step if Jacobson continues to refuse to pay for all improvements recommended by CU, Mullinax and CU General Manager Tom Wheeler said the state agency will intervene.
“The issue is between the state (TDEC) and the park (Jacobson) and we’re (CU) caught in the middle of it,” Wheeler said.
A factor complicating the issue is the mobile home park owner never received a state license for the privately operated facility, Wheeler said.
At last month’s board meeting, Wheeler reported CU sought out an independent review of its investigation and an evaluation of the contaminant levels in the creek. The analysis was done by Kevin S. Young, P.E., senior vice president of J.R. Wauford & Company, Consulting Engineers Inc.
Young’s assessment is that pollution levels in Wilkerson Branch are within acceptable levels for waterways of its use. He also pointed out past studies have revealed that bacterial concentrations in public waterways can also be linked to density of housing, population, development and domestic animal density rather than just direct contamination by wastewater collection systems and septic system overflows.
Cleveland Utilities became involved in the private sewer collection system investigation last spring when residents of the nearby Royal Oaks Subdivision off Michigan Avenue Road complained of sewage pollutants in the creek. The group took their concerns to the Bradley County Commission, but were told in a legal opinion by county attorney Joe Byrd that it was a state problem and not a local government issue.
TDEC’s Division of Water Pollution Control issued a second Notice of Violation against the mobile home park owner and instructed CU to work with the Peachtree Pointe owner to determine if the privately owned sewage collection and lift station systems are at fault. If so, repairs would be made at the owner’s expense. CU would then assume control of the unlicensed system.