Long Term Control Plan could save city millions

September 24, 2012


PDT Staff Writer

The city of Portsmouth is close to an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ohio EPA that would result in a Long Term Control Plan that would cost the city far less than the original estimate of $68 million.

Portsmouth Wastewater Director Rick Duncan said the city is envisioning doing four projects on Grandview Avenue.

“The first one is the downspout removal project (Grandview Project 1) we’re in the midst of right now,” Duncan said. “The next three are projects basically to hold back stormwater.”

Duncan said Grandview Project 2 is a project at 25th Street and Coles Boulevard, which would consist of a large ponding area. He indicated the city is currently involved in negotiations with a homeowner in that area. The target time for that project is 2013.

“It’s the area at the bottom of the hill at the (Southern Ohio Medical Center) emergency room there, a kind of wooded ravine,” Duncan said. “We’re looking at acquiring that and putting in a retention structure there, which would be just a holding area with a large pond, but it would have flow restrictions, that whenever we do get a lot of rain, it would fill that area up and it would be released slowly into the sewers so it won’t be flooding into people’s basements.”

Grandview Project 3 focuses on the 2300 block of Grandview Avenue north of 23rd Street.

“We have to acquire some property and construct an underground concrete basin, and that would be what we’re calling a peak flow storage,” Duncan said. “So whenever there is a heavy storm like we had in 1997 and 2006, this would be a structure underground. There is a sewer there called the Lawson Run Sewer, whenever that reached a certain level, it would flow into this underground storage tank. Then after the rain was over we would either pump it back to the sewer at a slower rate. Or it would drain back into the sewer.”

That project is being looked at for 2014, and the city is still trying to work out the purchase of property in that area. It would eventually be in the form of a small park on the surface.

Grandview Project 4 is the National Guard Armory Detention Structure, proposed for 2015. The problem in that area resulted when a grassy lawn was converted into a hard surface parking lot, causing a water runoff.

“We’re in a project with them to mitigate their parking area,” Duncan said. “That is usually some type of an underground structure where storm water runs into an underground structure and is released at a slower rate. Usually when you mitigate a project you are putting something there that will make the runoff either the same as it was before or better than it was before.”

The city contracted with environmental attorney David Burchmore of the Columbus law firm, Squire Sanders.

“That has turned out very well,” Duncan said. “He is very knowledgeable and very helpful. In fact, I talked to him again Friday about our status, and now we are to the point where he will be reviewing the final language in the Consent Decree with Gary Pritchard of U.S. EPA in Chicago.”

Duncan said that since all of the parties involved have developed a workable plan, it is time to reduce it to a formal written agreement.

“That’s what we will be taking to City Council for their approval. And that would be approved by EPA if all parties agree to it,” Duncan said. “This is standard with these Long Term Control Plans. They always end up at an Administrative Order on Consent.”

Duncan said the final product would be approved by City Council and the U.S Attorney who represents the U.S. EPA. He estimates the projects would cost the city from $500,000 to $1 million. He said legislation was to come up at Monday night’s City Council meeting to prepare the loan applications for the next round of funding through the Division of Environmental Finance (DEF) with the EPA. The city is applying for Loan Forgiveness Funds, in which the DEF would forgive the principle, making it basically a grant.

Where do the residents of the Grandview Avenue area of Portsmouth fit in?

“First of all before there is anything officially agreed to or signed off on, there will be a public meeting,” Duncan said. “So residents can address any concerns they have.”

As a separate part of the Long Term Control Project, the city is also working on the North Moreland/Munn’s Run sewer system. The first part of that project was done in 2009 with the manhole lining project, part 1. The second phase would be the sewer lining project, which would be done in 2012 at a total cost of $650,000, consisting of a $400,000 grant and a $250,000 zero-interest loan with a 20-year term. and the manhole lining project, part 2 for 2013. The cost for that phase would be $130,000 using grant funds.

There would also be a Lawson Run Sewer feasibility study. There are over 30 known sanitary sewer connections to the Lawson Run Sewer and Duncan said if those sanitary connections can be removed from Lawson Run and re-routed at a reasonable cost, it may be feasible to divert millions of gallons of clean stormwater around the treatment plant, eliminating large quantities of combined sewage from entering the Ohio River.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at flewis@heartlandpublications.com.