Five Point Road sewer decision angers neighbors
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor
Friday, 19 April 2013 09:49
Middleton Township residents walked out of a meeting Thursday morning feeling the sewer plan for their neighborhood and decision making process both stink.
"You can all kiss this as I walk out," Willie Barfield told the Northwestern Water and Sewer District Board as he left the room.
"This is a dog and pony show," Mike Bills said as he walked out.
The residents were reacting to a decision by the district board to put a low pressure sewer system on Five Point Road and West River Road, with grinder pumps at all 56 homes along the line. They were also angered by the board's decision making process.
The meeting began with residents being given three minutes each to comment on the proposed sewer project. All the residents who spoke favored either a gravity sewer system or a combination of gravity and grinder pumps.
After public comment, the district engineer, Bill Barber presented his recommendation to the board - that they go with the least expensive option of an entirely low pressure system with grinder pumps at every home - not an option supported by residents at the meeting.
So residents asked for a chance to speak once the recommendation was made. But they were denied. Dave Cook, of the sewer and water district, apologized, but said the neighbors already had their chance to speak.
"You're sorry? How do you think we feel?" Barfield said.
The board voted unanimously to go with Barber's recommendation for a low pressure sewer.
The area has been under EPA orders since 2006 to have sewers installed since testing by the health department showed fecal contamination in the ditch on Five Point Road.
According to Barber, the low pressure system is the most affordable, with the total cost $1,065,000, or $19,000 per home.
The combination system with a gravity line on part of Five Point Road and grinder pumps at 34 homes, had a total cost of $1,229,000, or $22,000 per home. Several residents spoke in favor of this option.
A gravity with force main system and two pump stations had a total cost of $1,861,000, or $33,000 per home. The gravity system would require a lot more extensive construction since it would reach depths of 28 feet. However, many residents favored this option.
"I have a perfectly good septic system," River Road resident Rosemary Yanik said. But if a sewer system is needed, it should be a gravity system, not the grinder pumps, she added. "We feel it's an inferior system."
Janice Butzier, of Five Point Road, also expressed concerns about the grinder pumps. She asked the district board if they knew the percentage of customers in the district served by grinder pumps. She asked if they knew the length of warranties on the pumps. The questions went unanswered. Three percent of the district is served by the pumps, which have two-year warranties, Butzier said.
Another River Road resident shared reservations about the grinders and asked for the gravity system to be installed.
"I think that's far superior," she said. "I think people are willing to pay that cost."
Barfield said rural power outages are too frequent for grinder systems. "There are too many things that can go wrong," he said.
District board member John Cheney, the only to respond to the residents, said the sewer system installation is inevitable.
"I don't think we have any choice other than to go ahead and do it," he said.
Cheney also told residents they have the wrong perception of the grinder pumps, which the district has 500 of in operation.
"I think some of you have been sold a bill of goods about grinder pumps," he said. "I think it's a good technology that has been accepted by an entire industry across the country."