Changes to sewer project announced

The Washington County Commission announced this week there will be changes to the upcoming Washington County Sewer Project.

Formerly known as the Devola Sewer Project, more than 550 homes in Devola will be sewered because of a 2012 order by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. The order was made because of high levels of nitrates in the well water.

A public meeting will be held in October to address the changes, along with updating residents on the project in general. Details of the meeting have not yet been set.

The biggest change is going from the grinder pump system to a step system.

“When Charlie (Schilling) and I came into office, we had before us the E1 grinder pump all set up,” said Commissioner Jamie Booth. “That’s what was going into Devola. The permit to install was all set up for the grinder pump situation.”

He said they started asking questions, such as what was the capacity of the grinder pump, and were told 70 gallons.

“Then we asked the next question … what happens if the electricity goes out,” he said. “There wasn’t an answer.”

Booth reached out to the Bowling Green Water and Sewer District and they scheduled time to go see their E1 grinder pump system. The trip was made by Booth, Commissioner Kevin Ritter, County Engineer Roger Wright and Sewer Superintendent Joe White.

Booth said he was told when the electricity goes out, the homeowner should wait an hour, then call back for help. He questioned what would happen if the homeowner kept using water. He was told sometimes the sewage would come out on the ground. Booth said the answer was unacceptable to all the commissioners.

Schilling said at that point, they wanted to evaluate other systems to see what their options were. They wanted to stay with a pressurized system, but wanted to find something better for Devola residents, he said.

During their trip, they stopped at Lore City to see a step system. Wright said it’s still a pressure system, the only difference is the grinder system.

“Everything goes down and gets ground up and pumped right back out,” he said of the grinder system. “With a step system, we’re pumping out liquids.”

He said waste goes into a vault, similar to a septic tank. Pumping out just liquids will allow for a smaller pump that will be easier to replace or change out. The tank will have to be pumped out every five to eight years at the county’s expense. Booth said they looked into retrofitting current septic tanks for the step system, but they are not compatible.

Wright said the change was decided because the grinder pump system was less economical in terms of long-term benefits and operational costs.

Schilling said the weight of the grinder pump was also a factor.

“If you have a pump that one person can pull that weighs 30 pounds compared to a pump that weighs 105 pounds that you have to use a crane to get out …,” he said. “The cost of the 30-pound pump is $700 to $800 to replace. The cost of the E1 grinder pump is $4,000 to replace. There’s a five-year warranty on the E1 pump. There’s a 10-year warranty on the step system.”

The initial cost is similar, but the cost of maintaining the system is a lot less over the next four decades, he said.

“It’s not that we wanted to change. It’s what made sense and this will help keep sewer bills lower longer,” Booth said. “It’s also 110 (volts). We were told the grinder pump would only use enough electricity to power a light bulb. It’s 220 (volts). That’s a little bit more than just a light bulb.”

He said they want to address the public in person to convey first-hand their thoughts on the changes.

“I want to be in front of people to say this is why we did this,” he said.

Schilling said they would have a better understanding of their funding streams in October.

“By then, we’ll have a good idea of how much funding is set in place and we’ll have a good idea of the step system we’re going to put in,” he said. “We can explain it and talk with people about it. We should have a lot of answers at that time as to what we’re doing moving forward on all aspects of this.”

The approximated timeline is for the project to go to bid in January or February of next year, award the bid in March or April, then construction can begin in June or July of next year, Booth said.

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.


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