GALLIPOLIS — Debbie Drive residents returned Thursday to speak with Gallia County Commissioners about the ongoing controversy of new sewer lines being constructed in their subdivision of Green Township.
Residents addressed the commission with concerns about the proposed monthly sewer fee of $55.50 when they were previously being charged $40. Some residents questioned why they were being charged higher fees for a new sewer line when they had paid a fee to maintain the previous one.
Commissioners told Debbie Drive residents the new system being put into place is being mandated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency due to aging systems and a fine of roughly $320,000 being levied against the county. Higher fees will help pay for the new system being inserted.
Residents repeated previous claims to commissioners that the closeness of homes and the depth of pipeline to be laid for new sewer line on their property would be potentially damaging to home foundations. Residents also claimed contractors would not take the job of laying pipe on their property due to the liability that may come with potential damage to home foundations. According to paperwork provided by Debbie Drive residents, representatives of Reese Excavating signed a document stating they were “not interested in placing a bid (on proposed Debbie Drive construction work) at this time because of liability issues that could arise from the installation of the the sewer tie-in.”
Reese Excavating representatives cited problems with potentially digging too deeply and close to home foundations, as well as lack of space between properties to operate. Debbie Drive residents have repeatedly claimed the space between homes as too close for construction equipment to operate. Equipment would need to dig a sewer line trench from the back of a home to the front of the property. Several residents have an old sewer line in the back of their properties. Current engineering plans state that residents must tie-in their sewer to the front of their property. Regardless of whether residents actually tie into the new sewer system, they could be held liable for sewer fees to the county.
Larry Jarrell, owner and operator of L.J. and Son Excavating, signed a document stating he felt, in his professional opinion, that the homes in question on Debbie Drive needed new sewer lines to go out the back of their homes with a new main to be tied into the new system. He felt the homeowners should have the right to choose the option since they had been paying their sewer bill for the last several years. He cited the need to avoid 180-degree turns for residents to tap into the new sewer system. Many have claimed sharper turns in sewer line lead to more frequent clogs.
Residents feel they are being treated unfairly in the construction of the sewer line as many claim they potentially must pay thousands of dollars to tap into the new sewer line. Commissioners have said they cannot dig on private land and hired engineers to design the system with public right-of-way laws in mind, hence why contractors dig near roadways.
The controversy seems to ultimately rest with the issue of whether or not digging a new sewer line in back of the homes is a more cost-effective solution and or whether residents should be forced to pay for private contractors to connect with the sewer at the front of their homes.
Commissioners have said they cannot change contracts signed with construction contractors and that the project cannot be halted since it has started. They also have said they attempted to inform the public as much as possible to the ongoing project through public meetings and letters. They have placed their faith in the Stantec engineering firm overseeing the Green Township sewer line project.
Debbie Drive residents addressed engineers in a previous meeting. Engineers said they had done the best they could with researching depths and layouts of geographic land throughout the neighborhood. Stantec has said in the past it felt the planned depths for sewer line construction were appropriate to accommodate basements in the neighborhood.
Commissioner Brent Saunders advised residents that it may be possible to create a new sewer outlet in the front of a home by manipulating plumbing inside the residence to compensate for some construction difficulties.
Commissioners said they would attempt to work with residents’ concerns as much as possible, but must be able to do that within the constraints of the construction plan. They have often suggested residents “team up” to split the cost of excavation for new and shared sewer lines on private land. Residents have disputed this as being cumbersome, especially if homes are sold in the future and the uncertainty of how well they would get along with new neighbors.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.