Residents discuss proposed wastewater treatment plant

By Brett Milam

There was a public information meeting at CNE High School on March 13, 2018 regarding the village of Newtonsville Wastewater Treatment Plant and Collection System.

On April 20, 2016, Newtonsville was given a grant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to build a new wastewater collection and treatment system. The grant stems from the Rural Development department’s Water and Environmental Program, where 60 projects in communities with fewer than 10,000 residents will receive $183 million in grants.

Newtonsville received a $2 million grant for the project, with five years to use that monies.

According to a press release at the time, in a 2011 survey, 40 percent of the 171 systems in the area were in failure or at risk of failing.

The overall cost of the project when adding in construction, engineering, legal and administrative fees totalled $8,177,171. After $1 million from the Ohio Public Works Commission, with another $1.1 million from wastewater capital improvements funds.

Prior to this new wastewater and treatment system, property owners used septic systems that they maintained themselves. The new system is designed to treat up to 57,000 gallons a day, according to Lyle Bloom, director of the Water Resources Department for the county. Bloom said currently existing homes and businesses in the project area use 34,000 gallons and the remaining 23,000 gallons can be used for future growth.

Or put another way, that’s an additional 100 single-family homes, Bloom said.

Property owners will be “assessed for the balance, with a 40-year loan at an interest of 2.25 percent.” The estimated assessment is $189.93 per frontage foot of property over the 40 years, Bloom said.

Meetings with the public started on Sept. 25, 2017 at Pattison Park Lodge. After that hearing, on Nov. 3, an informational mailing and request for response was issued.

From that information, Bloom said during a presentation of the project, of the 57 owners, representing 93 properties, who submitted comment sheets, 15 owners representing 19 properties supported the redesign, while 8 property owners representing 12 properties supported the design as it was presented, and 34 property owners representing 62 properties opposed the project.

Bloom then addressed some of the common comments received. For instance, that the costs were too high for the project.

Bloom noted that there are a few individual financial assistance opportunities:
– The Septic System Rehabilitation Financing Program (SSRFP)
– USDA SEction 504 Home Repair grants and loans
– Agricultural deferments
– General deferment

Another issue raised, Bloom said, was those who don’t support the collection system design and that “we want an all-gravity sewer.”

“Early on in the project, we were able to identify three different sites that were potential locations for the wastewater treatment plant,” Bloom said, when the process got rolling in 2012.

The location would determine the design, he said. One of the locations was Cedarville Road, near the outer limits of the village. The other location, which is the proposed current site thought for the plant, is on vacant land behind the Newtonsville Administration Building on Wright Street. The third location was a mile west on 131 near Stonelick Creek.

A good location, Bloom said, needed willing property owners to sell their property, near a receiving stream and water so the plant could discharge and access to public roads, so they could get access to it.

Bloom said the prefered site was on Cedarville Road because its northern location was easier for the system, but they were unable to secure that site, so it fell to the vacant land behind the administration building. Design-wise, that presented more problems for an all-gravity system.

Robert Wildey, the director of water and waste for the county’s health district, then gave a presentation about the challenges associated with maintaining the current septic systems.

The health district is strongly in favor of sewers being put into Newtonsville, Wildey said.

In April 2017, the district sampled two days consecutively 10 streams in and around Newtonsville, Wildey said. The sampling concerns E-coli: streams safe to touch should have a count of less than 235 E-coli, he said, while E-coli levels that exceed 1,030 is a “public health nuisance.”

From that sampling on April 25, five different areas within the village were designated as a health nuisance, with two greater than 24,000.

“That’s mostly sewage, that’s really what it is,” Wildey said.

Wildey said just because your system has never backed up into your house does not mean the system is working correctly.

“Homeowners are not good at taking care of onsite systems…some are, some aren’t; it’s like a bell curve, you have a few people who are horrible at it, you got a whole bunch of people who are mediocre at it and you got people who are excellent at it,” Wildey said. “If they were really good at taking care of onsite septic systems, we wouldn’t be here.”

At the meeting, Elizabeth Kramer, who owns two different properties on West Main, worried about the size of the tank and the easement needed on the property, noting that it would be about 14 feet into the ground and 14 feet across.

“I feel like you’re being a little misleading when you’re just showing the tank top,” Kramer said. “What you’re not telling everybody is how much space, how much land you’re gonna need to sink the tank in.”

Kramer’s concern was that small properties would essentially lose their front yard to tank being sunk into the yard. She wanted county officials to try the Cedarville location again and see if the property owner is willing to sell.

“I am absolutely opposed to having a tank in my yard,” she said.

Bloom responded, saying redesigning the whole collection system and putting it somewhere else would make that five-year time window with the USDA loan tight.

“I don’t know if that $2 million would be available still,” he said.

So far, $800,000 has already been used in design costs, Bloom added.

Bloom said they would be willing to put the tank in the backyard, but he’s thinking long-term, where an owner may want to put a pool or a patio or a deck there.

Commissioner David Painter spoke at the meeting, as someone who has a septic tank at his property, too.

“I want you guys to know this is not only a difficult decision for me as a commissioner, but for the board of commissioners,” Painter said. “Because we want to do what you want; we want to service you with the best system that you would like to have.”

Painter said this was a construction project for him, as someone with 40 years in the construction business, adding that he wanted to keep it as diligent as possible.

The next step, Bloom said, is there will be a resolution determining to proceed or not to. If it doesn’t, the project will be discontinued. If it does proceed, tentatively, construction is slated for April of 2019 and be done in July of 2020.