Project to provide water to 400 homes

Watts Bar Utility District, USDA unveil $3.3M faucet

Hugh G. Willett
Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More than 400 homes in Loudon, Roane and McMinn counties will benefit from $3.3 million in grants and loans for water infrastructure improvements announced Tuesday by Watts Bar Utility District and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"We're glad to announce that we're ready to get the water flowing to this area," said Mickey Barger, the district's general manager.

The announcement is welcome news for residents of the Hotchkiss Valley and Dogwood Shores areas, some of whom have been fighting for potable water supplies for as long as 30 years.

"The wheels of government turn real slow sometimes," said Loudon County Commissioner Harold Duff, adding that he was glad the water project was finally under way.

"Clean, safe drinking water is one of the most basic building blocks a community needs," said Keith Head, Rural Development Community Programs director for USDA in Nashville.

Head said his office made the Hotchkiss Valley project a priority when he learned that more than 400 homes were without drinking water.

The project will be funded by a $2,325,000 low-interest Rural Development loan and a grant of $775,000. The utility district will provide an additional $200,000 to fund the project, which will include 31 miles of pipe and a 300,000-gallon storage tank.

Rural Development makes grants and loans to rural areas with a population of less than 10,000. The agency has a goal of bringing water to an additional 1,000 homes in the state each year.

"I know how important this is to the community," said the Rev. Mark Caldwell, pastor of New Providence Baptist Church, where the announcement was made. "My water turns muddy when it rains just like everyone else."

Well water in the area has been contaminated for many years with high levels of sulphur and iron that not only affect the drinking quality, but also damage household appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines, Caldwell said.

The on-going drought has made it even harder to rely on well water, he added.

"It's a great day in Loudon County," said County Mayor Doyle Arp. "Watts Bar Utilities should be commended.

The addition of water service to the area could encourage residential development, Arp said.

McMinn County is also expecting growth in the area and is pleased to be working with the the Watts Bar Utility District, McMinn County Mayor John Gentry said.

McMinn County uses at least eight different water suppliers and pays 20 percent of construction costs for water infrastructure through its general fund, Gentry said.

Although Hotchkiss Valley is near Lenoir City, the Lenoir City Utilities Board, for various reasons, delayed the extension of water lines into the area for almost 30 years, Barger said.

"LCUB didn't have the money," Barger said. "Loudon Utilities Board was going to do it, but they never got around to it."

When the Watts Bar district acquired East Roane Utility District in 1997, it opened the way for the utility to consider servicing the Hotchkiss Valley area, Barger said.

Watts Bar, which services 4,850 customers in parts of Loudon, McMinn, Meigs, Rhea and Roane counties, is aggressively expanding and plans to continue to grow its service area, he said.

Barger said the Hotchkiss Valley project will begin laying pipe in the spring in the Pine Grove and Providence area, followed by Hotchkiss Valley Road and White Road. The project is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2009.

The cost to tap into the lines will be $1,000 per household, Barger said. Additional costs to the homeowner would vary based on a residence's distance from the road