Devola residents hear about sewer project

Residents of Devola gathered at the volunteer fire department to hear about phase two of the Devola sewer sanitary improvements Tuesday night.

The first phase began in fall 2011 and involved rehabilitating existing sewers and other work. Phase two will involve creating new sewers where there are none.

About 50 people were on hand to listen to the proposed plan from the consulting engineer and representatives from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

The main issue that the Devola area is facing is a high level of nitrates concentrated in the ground water, they said.

Anything above a nitrate level of 10 in drinking water poses a health risk, according to Chris Kenah, a spokesman with the division of drinking and ground water for the EPA.

“In the east side of Devola we noticed a moderate amount of nitrates in the 5 to 6 range,” Kenah said. “For areas without sewers we noticed higher levels of nitrates in the water, even getting up into 8 to 12 levels.”

All the data that has been gathered over the years shows there is a health hazard with the ground water located in Devola, said Steve Wells of the EPA.

Wells explained that the county commissioners really had no choice but to address and resolve the issue.

“If the county would have refused to act on this project then the Ohio EPA would have been forced to file suit against them,” Wells said. “That type of a process is never beneficial and we always prefer to simply negotiate for the best possible outcome.”

The commissioners decided that sanitary sewers would be the best course of action to rectify the problem and the EPA approved.

“Unfortunately this is something that we as a community can’t avoid,” said Susan Burkhart, a resident of Devola for 15 years.

Burkhart, who recently retired from working in the county commissioners office, has been actively keeping up with this project since the beginning stages.

“This is going to cause over a $900 increase in utilities per year for residents of the area,” Burkhart said. “Thankfully the commissioners mentioned that there will be an income survey that will allow those on a limited income to receive some financial help.”

The spike in utilities will be in part due to a reverse osmosis treatment in order to remove some of the nitrates from the water supply.

“We are hoping to be able to treat the water to reduce the nitrate levels down to around 3 or 4,” said Jay Huck, the manager and operator of Putnam Water.

“We will be switching from a three-month to a two-month billing cycle,” Huck said. “The average bill should go from around $98 in three months to around $70 for two.”

Huck said he believes there are benefits to the reverse osmosis treatment and the community will notice that in time.

“Due to the process of reverse osmosis residents will be getting soft water,” Huck said. “One of our goals is for people to feel safe to drink their water.”

While it’s a long way from set, the current and fastest projection for the completion of the sanitary sewer system is July 2014.

As for how long it would take the nitrate levels to drop in the area water supply after the system is in place, Huck isn’t completely certain.

“A conservative guess would be that it would take around 20 years to clean up the nitrates from the water source, but eventually the sewer system will help,” he said.