Sewer system facts explained in Devola

DEVOLA – The community’s more than 300 homeowners might have a chance to make their own decision about a sewer system.

Every one of the approximately 300 forms signing up homeowners for a voluntary inspection of their septic systems quickly disappeared into the crowd at the end of a town hall meeting Tuesday night to try to head off a $6 million sewer system – Phase II – ordered by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency

Steve and Kathy Hutchinson, of 132 Woodrow St., are not supporting the OEPA sewer system and filled out one the inspection sheets before going home.

“I’m not liking being forced,” said Steve, 54. “It’s an older house. We are not sure what type of system (we have). Out of the inspection process, we hope to find out.”

The couple said the house was built 1930s, perhaps earlier. Kathy said they bought the house in 2009.

The inspection form asks for property owner and address, the type of system, when the system was installed, the number of occupants and bedrooms, the most recent date when the septic tank was pumped and if all sink and laundry drains go to the septic tank. The inspection is voluntary and will cost each homeowner $77. The homeowner will be billed.

“As of 2010, your lives have changed forever,” said Washington County Commissioner Ron Feathers who served as moderator for the meeting. “We have been put on the radar by the Ohio EPA. They want to put us in a municipal system with Marietta.”

After a study of Devola drinking water, the OEPA deemed it unsafe because, in one instance, high levels of nitrates were found in 2010. A $2.6 million reverse osmosis facility was installed to clean the water. Several residents were concerned with the nitrates issue. Nitrates can impact oxygen levels in adults and may lead to life-threatening illness in babies.

Feathers said the nitrates in the Tri-County and Beverly water systems tend to run at acceptable levels, while Devola’s was unacceptable.

“(Tri-County and Beverly) aren’t on the EPA’s radar,” he said.

John Gajdosik, 63, of 107 Sylvan Way, said the sewer plan does nothing to affect the nitrates.

“So, now are you telling me we’re going to fail in the EPA’s eyes?” Gajdosik asked.

The data collected from the voluntary inspections will be used in a report due to the OEPA by March. Feathers reiterated that the inspections and data collection have not stopped the planned sewer, only delayed it.

“I’ll be the first to sign up for the inspection,” said David Payne, of 473 Strecker Lane.

Scott Summers, of 103 Julie Lane asked: “What is the EPA tells us we have to sewer? What if we don’t?”

Washington County Prosecutor Jim Schneider said it’s likely the OEPA will sue or assess the fees on the homeowner’s property taxes, if the homeowner doesn’t pay to hook up to the line. Another alternative would be payment arrangements.

If the sewer system does become a reality, the most economic option is to join with Marietta sewer system, he said, referring to its expanded treatment plant under construction.

Feathers said the OEPA will install the new sewer system in the right of way at a considerable expense (mainly on the fronts of properties.)

Ed Russell, of 207 Keeler Drive, suggested neighbors join to have the sewer lines placed along the back of their properties.

“They want bulldozers and backhoes in your yards in June of 2014,” Feathers said. “They wanted them in your yards in June of 2013.”