Beginning the first phase of a $250 million consent decree to fix the city's antiquated sewer system, Chattanooga City Council members voted Tuesday to approve nearly $38 million in items that will go toward sewer repair.
The council voted unanimously to approve 13 resolutions related to the decree Tuesday. Payments related to the fix are expected to be made over the next 16 years.
Last year, the city was issued a consent decree by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the sewer system. In order to pay for the agreement, sewer rates are expected to increase gradually over time, less than 10 percent of previous rates.
Chattanooga's combined sewer and wastewater system, last organized in 1952, serves a region expanding well outside the city, in an area encompassing approximately 200 square miles. In some parts of the city, sewer line construction dates back all the way to the 1890s.
Chattanooga is not the first city in Tennessee to undergo a massive overhaul of its sewer system. In 2004, Knoxville agreed to $540 million for upgrades, Nashville agreed to between $300 and $400 million in 2007, and Memphis agreed to $200 million in repairs last year.