Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rural pockets of affluent Middle Tennessee counties go without city water

A 2005 Tennessee study found 4,200 homes in Rutherford, Sumner, Wilson and Williamson counties, all bordering Metropolitan Nashville-Davidson County, were without access to treated water. While officials in Sumner County say conditions have improved since, hundreds of residents remain without the basic commodity.

Clay Carey of The Tennessean reports that grant programs for water lines are based largely on the wealth of the county, and while rural areas of the metro counties are poor enough to qualify, their proximity to Nashville eliminates them from consideration. Sumner County Mayor Anthony Holt told Carey that only half the communities that apply for water grants are successful, and getting water to all residents in his county would probably cost at least $35 million.

Even after utilities expand to underserved areas, some residents can't afford the connection fees. Sumner County resident SuSan Small-Hammer (Tennessean photo by John Partipilo) had the chance to connect her house to "city water" for the first time three months ago, but told Carey she in on Social Security and can't afford the $3,000 hookup fee. She says it would cost an additional $2,000 to update her plumbing to accommodate the system's higher pressure. She is circulating a petition to decrease the fees, but in the meantime will continue to shower at her nearby church and deal with water shortages during droughts. (Read more)

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