PDT Staff Writer
Portsmouth Wastewater Director Richard Duncan displayed a slide presentation about the history of the city’s wastewater system and problems from the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) system, as well as the proposed Long Term Control Plan to those in attendance at Tuesday night’s public hearing at Shawnee State University.
The program was moderated by Amber Kent Finkelstein of the Ohio Public Interest Center and featured a panel consisting of Duncan, Barbara VanTil, Section Chief for Enforcement,. U.S. EPA, Region 5, Sudhir Desai, Environmental Engineer with the Water Division of the U.S. EPA Region 5, Jennifer Witte and Scott Foster of Ohio EPA.
After Duncan’s presentation, Finkelstein opened the floor to questions, and several residents asked questions of those on the panel, most directed to Duncan. The final segment of the hearing was a comments period.
It was established at the meeting that Portsmouth is not alone in the current process. CSO’s serve roughly 772 communities, and Ohio has approximately 1,233 permitted CSOs in 81 communities. Portsmouth has 10 CSOs currently.
VanTil gave an overview of the dialogue between the EPA and the city of Portsmouth.
“Since the EPA has been working with municipalities, we have come to realize that there are a lot of challenges,” VanTil said. “There are a lot of things that need to be complied with. Certainly you are very familiar with the Combined Sewer Overflow issues that your city is having, and the requirement there. There’s sanitary sewer overflows; there are storm water issues; also the wastewater treatment plant. So much like every other community that EPA and Ohio EPA have worked with, you have a lot of different requirements you have to juggle. And this can be challenging particularly from a financial perspective.
“So recently EPA has put out some guidance on what we are calling integration, looking at the different requirements that every community has, and it sets forth sort of a process for have the dialogue on what the priorities need to be.”
VanTil said both EPA and Ohio EPA have invested a lot of time in speaking with city officials about the problems caused by the CSOs, the main problem being flooding of property and basements in the Grandview Avenue area of the city. She said another important thing the agencies are looking at are the resources available to the city, the environmental impact, and what the priorities are.
“When you have something coming out of the sewer line at some point when it’s not supposed to - in other words - it’s not going out of that structure to the river, but perhaps going into a basement or something like that, that is strictly prohibited.” VanTil said. “So these become high priorities by the agency.”
After saying Tuesday night that the projects were in a prioritized order, Duncan said Wednesday that he should not have listed projects in a numerical order, and that he only used the term “priority,” for his own reference, and that the EPA has not set priorities, only listed the way things have to be completed in an administrative order.
Duncan said, according to the EPA, the actual order is - 1. Increased reporting of our activities; 2. Increase operation and maintenance (which means more equipment and more people); 3. More reporting to EPA. 4. a specific Overflow Emergency Response plan, which has to do with basement backups, sewer collapses, sewer stoppages.
“Instead of going out and responding to a basement backup, and just assuming it’s fine, we have to follow up on it and show that we did what we are supposed to do,” Duncan said.
Another component is the Systems Management, Operations and Maintenance (MOM) program. That program has to be prepared within 180 days, and consists of a document that is basically a manual.
Duncan said the projects are scheduled by completion dates set by the EPA, and are not necessarily in a priority order.
At the top of the list is the North Moreland Sewers, which is to be completed by Dec. 31, of 2013. That is followed by the North Moreland follow-up where the project can be assessed.
Next, the project would deal with the Grandview-Upper Lawson Run projects. Those projects are divided into four parts. GV-1 is downspout removal, a recently implemented by the wastewater department. GV-2 is the proposed detention structure at 25th Street and Coles Boulevard. GV-3 is the 2300 block of Grandview Avenue peak flow storage. GV-4 is the National Guard Armory storm water detention project which is still being negotiated
“We have to apply for funding through the Water Pollution Control Loan Fund to the Division of Environmental Finance Administration (DEVA), ” Duncan said. “That’s planning and design and construction of the 25th and Coles Boulevard Retention Basin Project and the 2300 block of Grandview Storage Project.”
Duncan has two plans for that project - one just placing a detention pond underground, and the other placing amenities such as a walking path and a gazebo. That project is estimated at $400,000.
“Anytime we get a big rain it would fill this pond up, and over time it will release it at a slower rate,” Duncan said. “So that is to keep some of the runoff from reaching down Grandview,” Duncan said.
After the Grandview project follow-up, the next project would be the Lawson Run sewer study. Duncan said included in the order are bi-monthly reports and annual reports.
Former Portsmouth Mayor Jane Murray asked several questions, and then made comments during the comments part of the agenda. Others from the public speaking were Robert Forrey, Sixth Ward Councilman Steve Sturgill, Larry Essman, Bridgett Osborne and Patti Huddleston.
With the cutoff date for filing comments on the EPA’s website being March 1, Sturgill asked that it be changed. In a letter to VanTil, Sturgill gave several reasons why he needs more time, saying he needs more information to justify an additional $1.25 million in planning costs, then ended his comments with - “I hereby request that the U.S. EPA extend the public comment period for 60 days and conduct an additional public hearing near the end of the 60 day extension. This will provide Portsmouth City Council time to collect, review and make public information noted above. It will also allow citizens the opportunity to review the additional information and to provide feedback to the EPA. Should the U.S. EPA grant this request, I will have the information we utilize forwarded to you for posting on the agency’s website as appropriate.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at email@example.com.