The City of Oregon plans to expand its wastewater treatment plant in response to a mandate from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) to deal with storm water.
“We have a lot of storm water that goes into the sanitary sewers,” said Public Service Director Paul Roman. “In order to prevent any type of sanitary sewer overflows, we’re being required to increase our plant size to deal with wet weather.”
Mayor Mike Seferian said the project will be funded by an increase in sewer rates for residents and businesses.
“This is going to cost between $16 million to $20 million to do,” said Seferian. “Everybody is going to be paying. The only people who aren’t are those who don’t have sanitary sewers, but septic tanks and leach fields.”
Roman said an affordability study will be submitted to the state, though he doesn’t yet know what the cost will be.
“I have to look at our rate structure, and what we can afford. It is a question to what degree do we expand if we cannot afford it. I don’t know how much I can negotiate with the EPA, but I know of other cities who have argued that they can only afford so much. I hope that it won’t be as large if there are issues with what we can afford.”
City officials will meet to discuss the matter further, he added.
“We have a NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System) permit renewal up this June. It’s what we need from the Ohio EPA to operate a wastewater treatment plant. But in order for us to renew our permit this year, we’re likely going to have to commit to some form of plant expansion,” said Roman.
“Three years ago, when the NPDES permit was issued, the city was required to study what we have to do at the plant to treat wet weather,” Roman continued. “At the plant, when we have a strong rain event, a lot of the storm water seeps into our sanitary sewers. What happens then is if the wastewater treatment plant takes on too much, it will literally get flooded out and can’t operate at all. Eventually the sanitary sewer system will back up and go through a secondary bypass in the plant. The waste water still gets disinfected, but it’s not getting the full treatment like a dry weather flow would receive. Our job over the last three years was to do a study and see what alternatives we have to eliminate that secondary bypass, as well as do everything we can to prevent the sewer system from backing up. Those studies were due last Friday. They were sent to the EPA for their review, and we’re waiting for their feedback.”
The city has been working toward improving drainage. Most recently, council last month approved an application for water pollution control loan funds with the OEPA that will go towards Phase 2 of the city’s sanitary sewer rehabilitation project to ensure the structural integrity of existing sewers and remove groundwater infiltration from the sewer collection system.
The $2,337,289 project will be funded with a $450,000 grant and $450,000 no interest loan from the Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC) and a $1,437,289 loan from the OEPA.
Phase I, completed about a year and a half ago, involved lining the city’s trunk sewers under streams and creeks to remove inflow/infiltration, a term used to describe sources of storm water (rain and groundwater) that enter into the dedicated sanitary sewer system.
“We’ve been going around and smoke testing the storm sewers and sanitary sewers, and getting them separated in the old subdivisions,” said Seferian. “We’re running cameras down the sanitary sewers and finding breaks in them, then we’re getting them fixed. So we’re trying to fix old systems.”
“We probably have another $3 million to $4 million of just sanitary sewer work to do, probably over the next 10 years,” said Roman. “That work is ongoing, but the plant expansion will be another project.”
Oregon, which has a contract with The Northwestern Water and Sewer District to treat the District’s wastewater, will require the District to have its own storage as part of the project, said Roman.
“They are very much a part of our plant expansion, because they also have excessive storm water. We are going to require them to provide their own storage, in addition to the plant in Oregon providing wet weather storage, so that our our storage doesn’t have to be as large,” said Roman. “We’re going to enforce a maximum flow from the Northwestern Water and Sewer District. When we start to restrict that flow, it’s going to back up, and the District will likely have to provide storage to not cause a problem with the system. Currently, it does not have any storage.”