Press Release

Citizens speak up on water quality, rates and fees at second public hearing on Town of Signal Mountain water system

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Be Vocal. Choose Local. advocates for Walden’s Ridge Utility District

SIGNAL MOUNTAIN, Tenn. (March 29, 2018) – At a second public hearing Wednesday night on the proposed sale of the Signal Mountain water system, citizens voiced concerns over water quality and raised questions over rates and extra fees.

Multiple members of Be Vocal. Choose Local., which is urging the town to choose Walden’s Ridge Utility District (WRUD), directed questions to Tennessee American Water Company (TAWC) and WRUD after a brief presentation from each.

In response to the town’s request for proposals, WRUD is offering to buy the system for $3.6 million or manage it if the town selects that option. TAWC is offering $3.4 million to buy the system.

Be Vocal. Choose Local. committee co-chair Eugenia Allderdice raised a question Wednesday night about the levels of trihalomethanes (TTHM) in TAWC water and how often they do testing. TTHM is a by-product of the chlorination process, and high levels pose serious health risks.

“I’m concerned about the TTHM levels. How often do you get closer to that upper limit? And how often do you check? We know TTHM could be carcinogenic,” said Allderdice. “Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have anything like that in our water?”

TAWC replied that they test quarterly and that their reports are a yearly average. WRUD’s water source is Hixson Utility District, which is high quality, aquifer water. In a recent report, Hixson Utility District had only 8.8 parts per billion of TTHM, while TAWC had 73 parts per billion, about eight times as much. Applicable law limits TTHM levels in drinking water to 80 parts per billion.

“Water quality affects every single one of us every day from the water your grandchildren use to brush their teeth to what you use to make sweet tea. Why wouldn’t you choose water from an aquifer over filtered water from the river? In my research on ewg.org, I found six contaminants in Tennessee American water that are carcinogenic. Not great news for a cancer survivor,” said Kerry, a Signal Mountain resident. “What I do care about is the quality of my drinking water. Tennessee American has yet to say what’s in their water.”

Other issues raised Wednesday night focused on rates and extra fees. TAWC, as stated in its proposal and at the public hearings, adds capital riders to customers’ statements, which are extra fees added onto each bill and passed onto residents.

At the hearing Wednesday night, Melissa Cantrell, a resident of Signal Mountain, asked why TAWC has not made infrastructure repairs as the current supplier of water to the town.

“We’re paying you monthly riders. Have you done anything within Signal Mountain as far as infrastructure?” questioned Cantrell, to which TAWC responded that they had partnered on leak detection.

As far as base rates, both TAWC and WRUD have said they will not raise rates for five years. TAWC has said they will not raise rates for five years but that they are subject to the Tennessee Public Utility Commission (TPUC). Citizen Don Strickland drilled down into what that meant Wednesday night and whether TPUC could require TAWC to raise rates.

“If TAWC guarantees rates for five years then how can it be subject to TPUC?” asked Strickland. “Would TPUC ever require you to raise rates?”

TAWC said TPUC could call them in for a rate increase but that they didn’t anticipate that would happen.

As multiple citizens reiterated Wednesday night, Be Vocal. Choose Local. supports WRUD because its water comes from an aquifer requiring far less treatment, it has local customer service on the mountain and it is not a for-profit utility.

The Town of Signal Mountain has scheduled one, final meeting to hear from citizens and both proposers, which is set for April 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the gym located at 1111 Ridgeway Ave. At the end of Wednesday night’s hearing, facilitators said there would be time for more citizen input at the next meeting.

About Be Vocal. Choose Local.

Be Vocal. Choose Local. is a committee formed by a group of Signal Mountain, Tenn., residents advocating to keep our water local. Our goal is to urge the Town of Signal Mountain to sell its water system to Walden’s Ridge Utility District as opposed to Tennessee American Water Company, a subsidiary of American Water Company, LLC. For more information about the Be Vocal. Choose Local. campaign, please visit bevocalchooselocal.org/, and follow the campaign on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/voteWRUD/ and Twitter at www.twitter.com/voteWRUD.

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