By Clinton Gill
Smoke Signals editor
As of Dec. 10 there is still no news to report regarding the fate of the Tansi Sewer Utility District. The commissioners have been advised by their attorney to "continue with business as usual until told otherwise."
His exact words were, 'It could take a while,'" said Commissioner Trey Kerley. "So, that's pretty much where we stand there."
TSUD is still considered a utility in distress. They have been advised by the Utility Management Review Board to increase their rates dramatically. However, Joyce Welborn of the Division of Local Government Audit has recommended to the review board that any decisions be deferred until the lawsuit is settled.
"People ask, if this plant goes back to a private entity, if the POA or RCI or someone else takes it over, and they don't want to be part of the sewer system again, is there state law somewhere that says that they can go back, or cannot go back, to a septic system?" asked Virgil Ferguson. "We, as a utility, cannot cut off sewer, because it would be a health hazard. If a residence can put a septic tank back in and take care of their problem, it would not be a health hazard. My question is, if someone wanted to go back to a septic system, could they do that? Is there state law against it?"
"Private utilities don't fall under state guidelines," said Kerley. "Us as a utility that's distressed, giving back those assets will create a whole new utility. The hundred dollars was only if we maintained the plant as it is now," Kerley continued, "I don't see the need to be scaring people saying you'll have a hundred dollar sewer bill when pretty much that's incorrect."
"If somebody was sitting there with a thought that their sewer was gonna be a hundred dollars a month, and that could go on forever, and maybe even more if it's a small utility, if somebody buys it they could charge anything they wanted to," said Ferguson. "But if these people can get out from under that utility rate by putting a septic tank back in, then I think somebody may want to do that."
In the case of residents who would like to revert back to a septic system, aside from any legal prohibitions there would still be some level of difficulty.
According to the "How Stuff Works" website, a septic tank is simply a big concrete or steel tank that is buried in the yard. Wastewater flows into the tank at one end and leaves the tank at the other. A septic tank is expected to hold solid wastes until they are liquefied or pumped out. While a drain field, also called a leach field, is a network of troughs with pipes punched with holes buried in the trenches and surrounded with gravel. A drain field is connected to the septic tank and is intended to get rid of impurities and toxins from the liquid that flows out of the septic tank. It also allows the waste liquid or water coming from the septic tank to be absorbed by the soil. When residents hook up to sewer systems, their septic tanks are decommissioned. The top cover of the septic tank is removed and crushed into the septic tank. The septic tank is then filled with sand, gravel, earth, concrete or other approved material. Therefore a new septic tank and drain field would have to be installed, which could be quite expensive.
Regarding the legality of reverting back to a septic system, TSUD commissioners have sent an inquiry to John Hall, who serves as an executive with the Tennessee Association of Utility Districts. As for the bankruptcy, a court date has been set for Dec. 19 in Cookeville, though it's doubtful that any major decisions will be made. Until the attorneys decide on a resolution, TSUD will continue with business as usual.