At its next meeting, the Oak Ridge City Council will consider whether to attempt to negotiate a better deal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the sewer upgrades or not.
About three and a half years ago, the EPA inspected the Oak Ridge sewer system and noted excessive rain water leaking into that system during storms. In April 2010, EPA sent the city a show cause letter which requested a face-to-face meeting to “show cause” why EPA should not intervene. Instead of meeting with EPA, the Council chose to phone in an informal response. Subsequently, EPA imposed a 20-page administrative order filled with expensive add-on requirements and a $170,000 civil penalty.
The total cost of the sewer improvements is in the neighborhood of $50 million. Paying for these improvements has so far required two major utility rate increases and a major increase in city debt. More rate hikes are likely.