VIDEO: Fort Payne City Council discusses “developing crisis” at Terrapin Hills
September 1, 2017 Share

VIDEO: Fort Payne City Council discusses “developing crisis” at Terrapin Hills

PHOTO: City Attorney Rocky Watson reads aloud the city’s statement on the Terrapin Hills sewer system. (Tyler Pruett | Southern Torch)

By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor

tyler@southerntorch.com

FORT PAYNE, Ala. (Watch the Video on our Website) On Wednesday, August 30, the Fort Payne City Council held a workshop regarding the sewer system at Terrapin Hills.

According to to City Attorney Rocky Watson, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management has filed an injunction, threatening to “cap off” the system due to a permit not being issued by ADEM.

After the representative from ADEM failed to show up at the meeting, the city discussed ideas to fix the problem and avoid the crisis. The subdivision has 190 houses, and if the outflow of the system is capped off, all these houses will loose sewer service.

One short term solution discussed at the meeting was that houses could have their existing tanks pumped; diverting waste to their existing tanks. The overflow from those tanks that were originally installed is what flows to the system that ADEM has the issue, as the tanks were installed without field lines.

Long term, the city plans on extending sewer service to this portion of town, utilizing new revenue from the city’s recent sales tax increase. The council also discussed finding grants for the project, which ties in closely with cleaning out Wills Creek for recreational use.

We reached out to ADEM following the meeting, and Public Affairs Director Lynn Battle related that their response would be issued in the coming days.

The city issued the following statement regarding the system: “Today’s work session has been called to address what appears to be a developing crisis surrounding the Terrapin Hills Sewer System in northern Fort Payne.

Before we begin, it should be made clear, that the City of Fort Payne had absolutely no connection with the development, installation, operation, permitting or overseeing of the Terrapin Hills Sewer System. There is no connection with the City of Fort Payne, other than that the City at one time had issued a franchise to the owners to enable them to charge for their services. That franchise was conditioned on, among other things, the owners’ compliance with ADEM regulations and having a valid ADEM permit. When ADEM revoked the permit, the City correspondingly revoked the franchise.

The City has now learned that there is a request from ADEM for an injunction prohibiting the operation of the Terrapin Hills Sewer System. Based on the information we have been able to obtain, the sewer system is working properly at this point in time. ADEM’s request for an injunction, and corresponding threat to cap the outflow pipe of the system, is based solely on the inability of the owner to pay and receive a permit from ADEM.

ADEM is taking this action in spite of the fact that they have never previously requested an injunction on occasions when the system was not functioning properly, and was discharging waste into Wills Creek. It would appear ironic that pollution was allowed to continue, but failure to pay ADEM brings about a request for an injunction.

Should ADEM obtain an injunction and carry through with its threat to cap the outflow pipe from Terrapin Hills, that would render in excess of 190 homes in at least three subdivisions in north Fort Payne uninhabitable, unmarketable, and worthless.

ADEM has over the last several years sought to pressure the City into assuming this problem that was created on ADEM’s watch. The City was requested reissue a franchise in spite of the fact that ADEM would not issue a permit. On advice of the counsel, the City did not take that action which would have resulted in exposure to liability for the City.

However, the City has not ignored the situation. There have been ongoing discussions about how to address the situation going back at least as far as the 1990s. Within the last 30 days, the first step toward being able to meet this looming crisis was taken by the Council when they passed the 1 percent sales tax which would enable the City to issue bonds that would be necessary for the City to begin in a sewer project which would solve not only the Terrapin Hills situation, but would vastly improve and open up all of the Northern Fort Payne area.

The City is committed to, if cooperation can be obtained from ADEM, trying to resolve this problem. However, it will take time, and the public should recognize that this was not a problem created by or contributed to by the City.”

We’ll update more on this situation as ADEM provides an update on the situation and the city deals with this, “developing crisis.”

Watch the Full Video: 

Comments

  1. Jim Mind
    Jim Mind October 19, 07:17
    This article provides an example of why the EPA should NOT allow more enforcement authority and duties transferred to state and local governments. It is sad to realize there are people in Alabama government entities that see nothing wrong with letting raw sewage flow into our streams, lakes, rivers, and oceans. Obviously, the City of Fort Payne, Alabama’s elected officials plan to interfere with ADEM’s more than four-year effort (way too long) to stop raw untreated sewage from entering an Alabama waterway. Is it reasonable that the City of Fort Payne government is advocating for ADEM to allow unlimited amounts of raw sewage to free flow into streams, which would pollute water that people downstream depend upon for drinking, swimming, fishing, etc. Shame on the City of Fort Payne, residents of Terrapin Hills subdivision, Terrapin Hills Sewer System, and Mr. David Groat, The City states ADEM wants to “cap-the-pipe” and stop the sewer overflows. I imagine ADEM does want such pollution to stop entering our waterways. Stop this long-term pouring of sewage into an Alabama waters. After more that four years of knowing ADEM’s requirement that the overflows stop, residents, the sewer system and the city should have worked out a solution to the problem long ago and should not have ignored the law! Instead they all said the heck with the law, heck with other residents downstream, we will just keep allowing the overflows to continue. I am certain this is cheaper than fixing a sewer system built just for the Terrapin Hills subdivision. This type of setup occurs all over Alabama. Usually, a city in which such a private sewer system exists make certain there is an operational and maintenance agreement in place for such an occurrence. The City DID NOT DO THEIR JOB in the first place and now must handle the situation. What if all these private sewer systems said to heck with the law, it is cheaper to just dump our waste on the ground. What kind of state would we have then? The city’s statement that the 200 homes depending upon the sewer system would be uninhabitable is ridiculous, ignoring laws of our state, and just plain unsanitary and stupid. The residents took on this liability when they purchased a home with a private sewer system- the END, no more needs to be explained. Either pay to repair the treatment system or MOVE, sorry! The people of Fort Payne and those downstream of this pollution loving city should rise up and demand more reasonable decisions by their government representatives. They obviously do not have the necessary education to run the local government if they think it is acceptable to allow raw sewage to flow into what is the people of Alabama’s waterways. It takes more than being liked for to run a government organization. Today it takes someone with an understanding of what the law requires and the relationship between what is wanted and what must occur.

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