Tennessee American backs off effort to bill customers for 2019 Chattanooga water outage costs

Workers are seen as water floods by a tank on the Tennessee River on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. Nearly a year after a multi-day water outage, Tennessee American Water has not completed an investigation of the cause. TFP photo

UPDATE: Officials with Tennessee American Water say they won't release information about the cause of the 2019 water outage even after claims were dismissed for two of three defendants.

According to a court document obtained by Channel 3, an order of dismissal for claims against American Water Works Co. and American Water Works Service Co. was filed on September 25, leaving Tennessee American Water as the sole defendant.

The water company previously stated they wouldn't comment on the causes due to ongoing litigation.

"As Tennessee American Water continues to defend itself against the litigation, we thought it important to inform you that we will not provide the ongoing evaluation of the service interruption when completed," a TAW spokesperson told Channel 3 after the order of dismissal was filed. "Tennessee American Water will continue to evaluate decisions against the backdrop of the pending litigation."

PREVIOUS STORY: It has been a year since a massive water outage left more than 30,000 Chattanooga businesses and homes dry for several days. Schools, hotels, and businesses all shut down due to a leak that occurred during the final phase of a large maintenance project.

Many business owners said they hope something like this never happens again. Jefferson's Downtown was closed for a day and a half because of the outage. The manager said the restaurant lost as much as $15,000.

"It's pretty hard to tell all my employees to go home and for me to sit here hoping it comes on during the day so I could call some people back. A lot of people rely on this money. It's hard to lose that for them," Jefferson's Manager Ryan Blainey said.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said the community deserves transparency from Tennessee American Water. He said officials with the utility had assured him a report on the cause of the outage was coming August 18. Yet, still nothing.

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"Because we want to know who is responsible, what happened so it doesn't happen again and we can hold the company or entity accountable," Mayor Berke said.

On Friday, they said they were not going to do that.

"That's wrong, they owe us transparency and openness. They operate on a position of trust and they are breaking that trust. This is not the right thing to do," Mayor Berke said.

Officials with the Tennessee American Water said they will not release information about the cause of the outage.

"The project was completed at that time and substantially strengthens resiliency and mitigates the risk of a future, similar service interruption. Litigation was filed almost immediately. As Tennessee American continues to defend itself against the litigation, we will not provide the ongoing evaluation of the service interruption when completed."

READ MORE |Tennessee American Water says it won't share reasons for massive 2019 water outage 

Mayor Berke said Chattanoogans do not have a choice on where to get water, so they deserve answers.

"They are a public utility, a public utility. Every ratepayer doesn't decide whether to get water from there or some other group. They are regulated by the state, they should produce that report," Mayor Berke said.

Blainey said they have not experienced any water issues since last year. Last week, the court held a hearing on pending motions to dismiss which will resume at a later date.