Washington County commissioners discuss Devola sewer

The Devola sewer project was discussed at length during Thursday’s meeting of the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

A couple of weeks ago, right of way agreements from Devola homeowners were tabled while questions about homeowner signatures were addressed.

On Thursday, Devola resident Glenn Pawloski asked about the tabled right of way agreements. Some 161 agreements have already been signed.

Commissioner Jamie Booth said Heritage Land Services was subcontracted by WSP Inc., the engineering firm designing the system, and they are to vet the signatures. Anyone listed on the deed must sign the agreement, which would allow the main sewer lines to be connected to the home.

Bruce Kelbaugh, president of the Washington County Board of Health, said the board passed a resolution this week regarding the court order for the sewer after the Ohio Fourth District Court of Appeals questioned the board’s stance on the matter. The BOH resolution questioned the need to sewer Devola.

A group of residents affected by the court order to sewer the area, Devola Against Sewering Homes, hired an attorney to fight the order.

DASH’s attorney, Greg DeGulis, filed a motion this week to supplement the court records with the board’s resolution.

“DASH has good cause for supplementing the record with a copy of the Washington County Board of Health resolution dating Feb. 8 unanimously voting against sewering Devola,” the motion states. “Further, Judge Abele questioned DASH’s counsel at oral argument on Nov. 5, 2020, regarding the role and position of the Washington County BOH. The attached BOH resolution directly responds to this line of questions from the panel.”

In an affidavit from DeGulis, he states Ohio Revised Code requires the board of health to pass a resolution stating that the sewer project reduces or eliminates an existing health problem or hazard for the county commissioners to have the authority to require residents to connect to a new sewer system.

“Without a Washington County Board of Health resolution stating that the sewer project reduces or eliminates an existing health problem or hazard, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners and Ohio EPA both lack the authority to order Devola residents to connect to the potential sewer system.”

The resolution passed by the board notes “The board is not aware of any scientific data to support sewering of Devola once the reverse osmosis project was completed.”

“We are not aware of any imminent health threat in Devola,” wrote Kelbaugh in the resolution. “As a board of health, we oppose the (Ohio EPA’s) decision to sewer Devola and we consider it over reach. It is our opinion that the OEPA usurped the authority of the Washington County Board of Health as it is our authority to require sewering.”

Pawloski told Kelbaugh he was “very proud of the spine that the Washington County Board of Health demonstrated with this resolution.”

Commissioner Charlie Schilling said he has talked with Ohio Rep. Don Jones, R-Freeport, and John Carey, director of the Governor’s Office of Appalachia, for help with possible funding.

Schilling noted Gov. Mike DeWine recently discussed the biennial budget, which proposed $100 million for two-year projects like the Devola sewer. There is a stipulation that the funding be for city populations under 75,000.

The commissioner said up to $2.5 million could be available per project.


Dates to Remember:

¯ Courthouse closed Monday for Presidents Day.

¯ Finance committee meeting, 10 a.m. Tuesday, courthouse.

¯ Regular county commission meeting, 9 a.m. Thursday, 1115 Gilman Ave.

Source: Washington County Commission Clerk.


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