GALLIPOLIS — Residents of Debbie Drive approached Gallia County commissioners Thursday with concerns about the implementation of new sewer lines in a large construction project started last year.
Nine residents filled the county commissioners’ office and brought concerns with tapping into the Green Township Sewer Project and what it would cost them.
“We’re here from Debbie Drive,” said one woman in the group. “We’re tickled to death we’re getting a new sewer system, don’t get me wrong. It’s become official. Some of us are concerned, though, with how the sewer (current lines) come out the back of our homes. We all have homes that line up with one another, which makes it almost impossible to dig between our homes with the equipment that they would have to dig to go to the depth that they would need to go. Track hoes would probably have to be used instead of the other equipment for it to go deep enough.”
Debbie Drive is a U-shaped street that has homes on both sides of it. Properties are also located within the “U.” The street’s entrance and exit connects with State Route 141. An older sewer line supposedly runs behind properties in the center of the “U.” Previous contractors put the lines there. Residents are now concerned with potential property damage, costs and construction efforts to connect with the new sewer line taps that are being placed on the street sides of the home as public officials attempted to design the sewer line project while keeping “right of way” policies in mind. Residents were also concerned with the depth of proposed pipelines and how close sewage lines may be to water mains. The concern with pipeline depths relates to how well sewage can travel due to gravity-based pipe systems.
Commissioners said they relied on the advice and recommendations of their hired engineering firm, Stantec.
According to Commission President Harold Montgomery, residents have an amount of leeway in where they would like to put their tap entrances to connect with the new sewer system on the street. However, county commissioners say the contractors hired for the Green Sewer Line Project cannot dig beyond what public right-of-way or contract allows. Because the design process of the sewer line construction has finished and public forums discussing the design phase have ended, construction has begun. Commissioners said to redesign sewer lines would cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars for taxpayers. According to Gallia County Commission Vice President David Smith, the redesign was not a feasible option as time, nor money, allowed for it.
Commissioners said they had done the best they could to hire reputable contractors as well as engineering consultants to treat individuals hooking into the new sewer lines as equally as possible. To redesign one construction plan would mean to redesign other neighborhoods. Residents are concerned with what it may potentially cost to redirect a sewer line from the back of their homes to the front. Some residents claimed this could cost them thousands of dollars.
According to Gallia County Commissioners, the sewer project is part of an action handed down by Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
“The (Ohio) EPA has levied a fine on the county,” Montgomery said. “In excess of $300,000, they have levied the fine due to the failure of the on-site sewer systems (across several locations in the county).”
To overcome the fine demands, the county is placing a new sewage system. Residents are being required to tap into the system. Despite having a tap fee waived, once the new system is in place, residents potentially can start being charged for the system’s use without having tapped in yet. Ultimately, some residents may need to hire crews to work on their private land to connect a sewer line from the back of their home to the tap out front.
Smith suggested to residents if they were concerned with sewer line costs and tapping out to the front of their homes that they potentially partner with a neighbor to reach the new sewer line.
Commissioners said they understood residents’ concerns but had their hands tied with meeting state requirements and budgeting issues. Some residents brought up safety concerns about construction and the commissioners said they would take that up with contracting crews at the next sewer line public meeting slated for Feb. 11. Commissioners stated the safety of residents was one of their highest concerns.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.