Fort Payne approves $8M loan for sewer upgrades

Fort Payne approves $8M loan for sewer upgrades

FORT PAYNE, AL (WAFF) - The city of Fort Payne is hoping they've moved a major step towards resolving a troubled privately owned sewer system.

The city hopes to take it over, and the council approved seeking a government loan of $8.347 million loan for sewage improvements. The loan will do much more than what's needed at Terrapin Hills, but that action will have to be approved by the court.

Mayor Larry Chesser said it will be used to build a system that will serve the north end of town including a tie in to the troubled Terrapin Hills system. Chesser said they also hope to get grants to have walking trails and improvements made to Big Wills Creek that will run alongside the system.

READ MORE: State opposes Fort Payne intervention in Terrapin Hills sewer case

The Terrapin Hills system is currently in a court battle with ADEM over permitting and leakage into the creek. The city has intervened in the case and Chesser hopes for a resolution.

The city of Fort Payne is also involved in the suit by ADEM filed against the Terrapin Hills Sewer System and its owner, David Groat. In the suit, ADEM attorneys maintain an inspection of the lagoon showed partially or untreated sewage was leaking into Big Wills Creek, a four-year problem that prompted the original suit in 2013. State officials also claim Groat has been in violation of a court order to clean up the mess since 2015.

The suit is asking a judge to cease the unpermitted discharges.

In response, the city maintains ADEM wants to "cap the pipe." The city maintains doing so would have adverse effect on approximately 200 homes involving about 600 citizens. The city argues it would render the homes uninhabitable, unmarketable and worthless.

"What we're hoping we can get the judge to do is eventually give an order for us to take the system over and an order to ADEM to leave us alone for X number of years until we get everything done. Because if we don't, they'll be right after us the day we take it over," Chesser said.

There is no word on when that could happen as a court hearing date has not yet been set.

City officials have previously stated they are considering taking over the system.

READ MORE: Fort Payne contemplates takeover of leaky sewer system

The city was admitted as a third party.

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