Citizens continue sewer protest
Written by Sentinel-Tribune Staff
Friday, 26 July 2013 08:46
Some Middleton Township residents are fuming over a sewer plan they say is being forced upon them.
Property owners near Shelton Gardens on Five Point Road and others on West River Road claim pollution detected in the area as far back as 1997 is limited to several residents and could be addressed by Wood County Health Department enforcement rather than a public sewer system. And if one must be installed, they would prefer to be assessed a higher cost up front in exchange for a more reliable option.
Despite their continued objections, the Northwestern Water and Sewer District voted unanimously Thursday to move forward with plans to install a low-pressure system with grinder pumps to service 56 homes in the area. About a dozen residents who attended the meeting said the pumps come with higher long-term utility and maintenance costs, while a gravity sewer would provide better service at a more significant initial charge.
The district on Thursday accepted a construction bid of $904,840 from Hank's Plumbing and Heating, of Toledo. Cost assessments to property owners vary, but average around $19,000 per home.
Owners of 18 properties have appealed an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency decision to allow the project to proceed, with a preliminary hearing slated in Columbus on Tuesday. They are represented by attorneys with the Shumaker, Loop and Kendrick law firm of Columbus.
Rosemary Yanik, of West River Road, and several other residents spoke during Thursday's meeting to outline their objections, but they expressed frustration that board members weren't listening. They said after the project was approved that district representatives had their sights set on installing public sewers regardless of whether it was the most effective and efficient solution.
Bruce Hine, of Five Point Road, said his septic system works properly, and pollution levels where he lives, across the street from a reportedly contaminating area, are nowhere near the limit. He said he thought the district was motivated by the fees it could collect in the future related to the public sewer.
Hine said he's also troubled by the lack of attention the matter has received from representatives despite residents' attempts to get them involved.
Another resident, Carleton Broer, conceded that a public sewer system was likely unavoidable in the long term; however, the district has a responsibility to satisfy property owners with the option they prefer.
"We're paying for it, they need to let us decide," he said, noting that he thinks the change will have a negative effect on his property value.
Jerry Greiner, executive director for the district, said grinder systems were the most economical long-term fix. Maintenance costs are higher but are paid for by the district, and each customer receives the same monthly utility charge regardless of what kind of system serves them, he said.
Greiner said grinder pumps are well established, with more than 500 in use in the district with few problems and thousands more throughout the region. He said the excavation required to install a gravity system in the Five Point and River Road area would be costly and difficult, and the Ohio EPA wouldn't permit the grinder system to be installed were it not effective.
He reasoned that residents were critical of the system because they were frustrated about losing the fight against joining a public sewer.
Brad Espen, Wood County's director of environmental health, said the health department attempted to conduct further monitoring of a smaller affected area in 2011 to identify the pollution sources, but two of 14 property owners required to consent did not sign an agreement. Residents would have been responsible for installing inspection ports and signing an ongoing maintenance contract, but the lack of unanimous consent led to the sewer project.
Greiner said delays along the way led to the loss of a federal principal forgiveness grant that would have covered 40 percent of the cost and lowered assessments to residents.
Now, the project is moving forward despite the pending appeal. Greiner said contracts will be signed next month, with construction beginning as early as September and continuing through winter as weather allows. Installation is expected to be complete by spring, 2014.