Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
The New Boston Village Council passed an emergency resolution Tuesday evening, authorizing the village to apply for a $150,000 sewer feasibility grant to assess the current condition of the village’s sewer lines. The grant is offered by the Ohio Department of Development and carries a 10 percent matching funds requirement ($15,000), which could be partially or completely eliminated through an in-time credit for the work already done to the sewers.
New Boston Mayor James Warren said the feasibility study is required for the village to apply for a larger $3 million sewer grant.
According to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), they began sending letters to the village in 2005 asking for a long-term sewer control plan that would divide the village’s current combined sewer system into two separate lines — one sewer line and one storm water line.
Chief among their concerns is the village’s combined sewer overflows (CSO), which is what occurs when too much water and sewage flow through the sewer lines. When that happens, the excess flow will bypass the two pump stations and dump into the river. The EPA is also concerned about instances of overflows happening inside people’s basements.
With no response from the village, the Ohio EPA turned the matter over to the U.S. EPA in 2007. Finally in April 2012, the Ohio EPA spoke to New Boston Village Council to discuss their options and create a plan for moving forward.
Earlier this month the EPA sent a letter to the village stating they would impose fines for the period of 2004-2009 while the village sewers were not in compliance. Village Solicitor Justin Bloom said the EPA agreed to stay those fines as long as the village is making progress to resolve the issues, which the village reports they are. Representatives from the Ohio and U.S. EPA met with the village last week for an update, and Mayor Warren reported they were pleased with the village’s progress.
Councilman Dan Fetty, who joined council in 2009, was upset that the village had let this get so far behind.
“When we got the letter back in 2005, why didn’t the village at that point in time do something?” Fetty asked.
Councilman Junior Williams explained to Fetty that the council minutes from January 2005 record that former Village Administrator Mick Sturgill and former councilman Brian Holbrook attended an EPA meeting in Logan, Ohio, where they were reportedly told that the city of Portsmouth was responsible for their sewer lines because of an agreement signed by the city and the village in 1991.
“The EPA said since we received no money, and Portsmouth was receiving all the money, then they should be the ones that have to pay,” Williams said.
Fetty said the contract with the city states that New Boston is responsible for its own local sewer pipes. He said he didn’t know why the EPA would say the village was not responsible, and then later turn around and fine them and say that they were responsible after all.
“This has been on my mind for quite some time. Back in 2005 they told us we had this problem and it didn’t get done. Now here we are, seven years later dealing with it. But like I said before in the meetings, we will take care of it,” Fetty said.
After discussing the issue at length, council unanimously (5-0) to suspend the rules for an emergency reading and then voted unanimously again to approve the ordinance to apply for the grant. Councilman Jon Mills was excused from the meeting Tuesday night, and did not vote.
Before closing the meeting, Fetty praised Village Administrator Steve Hamilton for his commitment to the EPA sewer issue.
“Sometimes we don’t give credit where credit is due. Steve has worked hard to get us where we are today, so I’d like to let Steve know on behalf of council and myself, we appreciate the hard work he’s done to get us this far and hopefully we can move forward and get this taken care of,” Fetty said.
The New Boston Village Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of every month. The next meeting will be March 5, at 6:30 p.m. at the Vern Riffe Community Center on Rhodes Avenue in New Boston.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or firstname.lastname@example.org.