October 4, 2008

Holmes County Wastewater Plants Commissioners Submit EPA Compliance Plan



Staff Writer

MILLERSBURG -- The Holmes County commissioners are relying on the appointment of a sanitary engineer, a proposed sewer use ordinance and a drafted timeline of the Walnut Creek wastewater facility expansion to bring them out of contempt regarding an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency consent agreement.

The three actions were submitted to Judge Thomas D. White on Sept. 22.

The commissioners were ordered by White to draft a plan correcting violations brought to the attention of the court at a May 12-14 bench trial.

White asked the plan address the violations at the Mount Hope plant, which had unacceptable levels of glue, and the Walnut Creek plant, which was running above daily capacity.

To prevent violations regarding acceptable levels of industrial waste, the plan includes a sewer use ordinance.

"The intent is, you're putting limits on what can be put into the county's plants and if someone exceeds those limits, you have some recourse to shut them off," Holmes County Prosecutor Steve Knowling said.

The ordinance addresses the issue of glue and restaurant waste and "any water or waste containing wax, fats, grease or oils whether emulsified or not, in excess of 100 milligrams per liter." Also included are dyes and vegetable tanners that produce colors not removed during treatment.

The ordinance gives the system's superintendent or enforcement officer the right to pursue fines as high as $10,000 per day per violation and additional penalties for users in violation of the ordinance.

The sanitary engineer can collect fees to enforce the ordinance, as well as a $1,000 per day penalty for late reporting. The county will require permits for all users of the system.

Under the ordinance, the enforcement officer will be required to submit to newspapers a list of users with significant violations.

"If we can control what's going into the plant, it makes it easier to run the plant," Knowling said.

Previously, no written ordinance or similar written standards were in place, he said.

As for problems in the past, "there have been (some) and most of them have been resolved and I don't think they were done intentionally," Commissioner Joe Miller said. "Most of the time people do stuff that they don't realize and put chemicals down the system. As things grow, we have to have more teeth in it."

Businesses will not see the effects of the ordinance until February. Public hearings will be held in the coming months.

"It's a six-month process and we've been working hard on it since the judge's decision," Knowling said.

The wording of the ordinance will go through several revisions before being finalized, but the original draft contained in the memorandum sent to the courts is based on a model from the U.S. EPA Web site.

The EPA has until Oct. 14 to file objections to the plan.

"I hope this would satisfy them seeing that it is their model ordinance," Knowling said. "I don't think there should be any major problems besides the fine-tuning."

Enforcement of the ordinance will be the job of an enforcement officer. The officer has not yet been named. Enforcing the ordinance will come at a greater financial cost to the county, Knowling said.

White also wrote in his opinion, "the Commissioners have proven that their Office is overburdened by the responsibilities of managing" the wastewater plants.

In response, the plan details the Sept. 22 appointment of county Engineer Chris Young to the position of sanitary engineer. On the same issue, the commissioner signed a resolution on Monday, contracting with Deans Backflow Service to supervise the county's wastewater treatment plants at a cost of $2,000 a month for 10 hours per week of service.

"The EPA loves this guy," Miller said. "He is so good at what he does and he does about 50-60 plants in the area."

In the final section of the plan, the commissioners submitted a timeline and funding chart for the expansion of the Walnut Creek WWTP, developed with Young's assistance.

The Walnut Creek plan was designed to operate at a rate of 90,000 gallons per day, but has been operating at levels as high as 140,000.

The expanded plant will cost an estimated $5 million and have an operating rate of 400,000 gallons per day. The county will receive assistance from the Ohio Public Workers Commission, the Appalachian Regional Commission, Ohio Mid-Eastern Government Association and the United States Department of Agriculture to fund the project.

"We will have Walnut Creek online at the latest, March of 2011, and we all think we will have it before that," Miller said. "That sounds like a long time, but it goes fast when you do those things."

Walnut Creek has been at the heart of the court case and the consent agreement because it is the most overburdened plant, Miller said. Other facilities will need updating soon.

"Winesburg has additional factories and people that want to hook on and those plants that are there, they will probably have to be moved because they are not by places by creeks where they can do a lot of discharging," Miller said.

Commissioner Dave Hall said he was looking to the OMEGA for funding for the county's other treatment plants.

"We may not do them next year, but that makes us eligible for future federal funds that come in the system," Hall said. "Wastewater projects are something the county is going to see indefinitely in the next decade."

Reporter Katy Ganz can be reached at 330-674-1811 or e-mail [email protected]

Originally published by By KATY GANZ Staff Writer.

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