End fight over sewer system

The Washington County Commissioners have decided to no longer fight one challenge to the ordered sewering of Devola, voting at their most recent meeting not to appeal a judge’s decision in favor of the Ohio EPA.

But while the EPA’s lawsuit is over, Commissioner Ron Feathers said a decision hasn’t been made about continuing to fight the lawsuit filed by the city of Marietta, also involving the sewering. In this lawsuit, both sides of Muskingum Township, Devola and Oak Grove, would be sewered.

We urge the commissioners to call it quits on that battle as well, as quickly as possible, and to put an end to this issue, which has dragged on for years and has been exceptionally costly.

We understand the commissioners’ initial intentions in refusing to force the residents of Muskingum Township to sewer their homes. They were doing so on behalf of many residents there, who have real fears that the expenses related could mean they lose their homes, their savings or their lifestyles. The belief among many is that if they have a working septic tank causing no environmental issues, they should be allowed to keep them.

That being said, this is a losing battle.

Even more so than the EPA suit, which centered around a mix of opinions on whether the septic systems were detrimental, the city lawsuit is based on a contract. There is a clear contract from 2011 between the city and the county, with the city agreeing to add on to its wastewater treatment plant to accommodate sewage from the township and the county agreeing to sewer the township. The city has already done its part, pouring millions of dollars into the treatment plant upgrades. There doesn’t seem to be any legal maneuvering that will be able to keep the county from having to fulfill its part of the agreement.

To continue to rack up legal fees and potential fines defying this contract would be reckless and irresponsible to all of the residents of the county.

What we can do now to help the residents of Muskingum Township is to end the uncertainty. Let’s get them a timetable for when their homes will need to be connected to the sewer system. Let’s get them some actual cost estimates so that they can make financial plans.

While well-intentioned, this fight has never been winnable. Let’s end it now.