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Wartrace water woes affecting large area

By ZOË HAGGARD - zhaggard@t-g.com
Posted 9/24/22

Those dependent on Wartrace’s water system say they are experiencing more and more water outages amid rising utility costs.  

At a Monday night Wartrace Utility Commission meeting, …

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Wartrace water woes affecting large area


Those dependent on Wartrace’s water system say they are experiencing more and more water outages amid rising utility costs.  

At a Monday night Wartrace Utility Commission meeting, several local residents, of both Bedford and Coffee County, raised their concerns to the board.  

David Rader, a Beechgrove resident, said he’s experienced seven outages in 15 days. Yet, he’s paying more for water, he advised.  

With the rate increase, “That’s all well and great for the town of Wartrace and areas covered by Wartrace water in the Bedford County lines. We’re Coffee County residents,” said Rader.  

“When decisions are made with Coffee County customers without Coffee County representation having a say in it, I think that’s something that needs to be addressed.”  

Rader asked commission member Bruce Vaickus whether these waterlines were being patched or replaced.  

Vaickus said it all depends on if it’s a crack or a split. He said they found an airlock before Labor Day on a hill in Wartrace where one of the water towers is located.  

“That airlock has caused disruption in the system... it has caused several more main breaks than usual,” he said.  

“Our system is not truly looped,” Vaickus explained. “What does that mean? There’s no backfeed. So, when there’s a main break in the main system, there’s no way to back-feed people on the end of that.”  

One Wartrace resident put dealing with the outages this way: “You’re in the shower, you get to washing your hair, and the water goes off, and you’ve got a head full of soap. There’s just no warning...” She did add that the outages have gotten better since she first moved to Wartrace several years ago.  

Another woman said her bill went up to over $100 from $80, even though only two people live in the house, while another Beechgrove resident said her bill went up $20. 

 “We understand the rate is going to go up. It’s just how much it’s gone up and in such a short amount of time,” she said.  

Mackenzie Carter, a contractor with South Central Tennessee Development District said, “The reason why it jumped up so much is the comptroller’s office. Because they [the Town of Wartrace] haven’t increased rates for 15 years, the comptroller’s office said, ‘you must,’ and here is how much. So, it’s not necessarily Wartrace doing this.”  

Essentially, the Duck River Utility District produces the water then sells it to Tullahoma, who then sells it to Wartrace.  

One Beechgrove resident, Scott Vicary, said the water is “going through so many hands, so everybody needs a profit.”  

Vicary and his wife say they are paying $70 per month. They were paying $18 a month when they were living near Manchester. He pointed out it’s a “significant difference.”  

“They’ve done a lot of grants to get money for Project Cardinal and all that infrastructure out there. But can you get us grants for water out here? . . . . Help us take care of the people who are already here,” Vicary said.  

State Rep. Pat Marsh helped to get the grant for the waterline extension project to Union Ridge (Marsh added that Gov. Bill Haslam put it in his own personal budget four years ago.)  

“We are constantly working with TDEC [Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation] on these problems and opportunities. Bell Buckle and Wartrace have got so few people that a lot of times they don’t qualify for grants because there’s not enough people per dollar... But I’d be glad to work on it,” said Marsh.  

There’s around $1.3 billion dollars in American Rescue Plan funds for wastewater projects, which areas like Wartrace, Bell Buckle, and Normandy are able to apply for.  

“It’s just when you get to rural areas, it’s so expensive and takes such a long time and serves such a small amount of people,” said Marsh.  

Wartrace’s water district has hundreds of miles of pipe and less than 1300 people to pay for it, according to Wartrace Mayor Cindy Drake. A letter was sent out from the mayor’s office in early July explaining residential customers in Wartrace town limits will pay a base rate of $20.55, while those living outside town limits pay a base rate of $50.20.  

According to Drake, this amount includes sewer, while city residents pay for sewer in a separate bill. Drake said the rate is essentially the same for city and county residents.  

However, Beechgrove residents don’t have sewer. So, why the extra cost?  

“As for the ‘extra money,’ as far as I know, it’s going toward the improvement of the infrastructure and it’s going to be useful,” said Vaickus. Also, pipes in the county require more maintenance.  

Kathy Tyson, town recorder for Wartrace, said, “We are undergoing a rate study right now...that rate study will determine whether they go down or up.” Tyson added that they finished their audit and finished the year in the black.  

Vaickus encouraged residents that if they see water and it hasn’t rained, call the water department to report a possible water main break at 931- 389-6144 for after hour emergencies.