Saturday, November 27, 1999

Whitewater forming own sewer agency

Locals aim to control growth

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WHITEWATER TOWNSHIP — Faced with failing residential septic systems and trying to resist development pressure, officials here are taking steps to control the key to both issues: sewer lines.

        Trustees are on their way to establishing a regional sewer district. It would determine what areas of the township, if any, are to get public sewer systems.

        They say they can do it at less cost to residents than if the system were installed by Cincinnati's Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD).

        And by controlling where the sewer lines are installed, they can keep a tight rein on development. In this rapidly growing western Hamilton County region, wherever public utility service is available, residential and commercial construction usually follows.

        “I think the pressure from the county (government) to develop Whitewater Township is real. I think MSD and the county commissioners want sewer and water in the area” for that reason, said township Trustee Hubert Brown.

        “Right now, those decisions are being made by the county,” he said. “And what we can do is take the bull by the horns and make our own decisions.”

        The trustees sent letters of their intent to county officials as well as about 2,000 township residents. At a public meeting on Nov. 20, residents were enthusiastic about the idea, Mr. Brown said.

        So trustees went ahead and filed a common pleas court petition seeking the establishment of a regional sewer district.

        If approved by the court, the district would have its own board of directors and broad authority to apply for grants, issue bonds, tax and spend. It would not have to answer to township trustees.

        The district could build its own wastewater treatment plant, or contract with MSD for the service.

        Mr. Brown said sewer lines could be limited to areas where failing septic systems make them necessary to protect human health and the environment, or where at least 50 percent of residents ask for them.

        “Where the majority of peo ple want it, they should have it,” he said. “I think the residents who have sewer problems and who have to spend a whole lot of money fixing septic tanks would want it because it's a whole lot better and more efficient.”

        One of the most problematic areas, according to Mr. Brown, is the community of Hooven, off Ohio 128 and U.S. 50 just west of the Great Miami River.

        County halth dstrict officials could not be reached Friday to discuss the results of recent surveys of septic systems in that area.

        Gary Hauger, who has lived on Hooven Road for about 10 years, said he has no problem with his septic system and would not want to pay to replace it.

        “I'm happy with what I've got right now. I don't need another expense,” he said.

        But an MSD report states that septic systems cannot function properly on small residential lots, such as those found in Hooven. And the type of nonabsorbent soil found there, as in most of Hamilton County, is also a problem.

        The cost to residents of a local sewer district line would be about one-fourth as much as a county line, Mr. Brown said, because the local district would be eligible for state and federal grants and low-interest loans. And the local district could limit its service areas.

        MSD officials could not be reached for comment.

        Township officials next will develop a plan outlining the areas the district would serve, and the need for and feasibility of the system. Once those specifics are laid out, there will be another hearing before the court determines whether to create the district.

        “Where we have sewer problems, we need to address it,” Mr. Brown said. “This would give us the opportunity ... (for) the choices to be Whitewater Township's, not from someone outside.”


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- Whitewater forming own sewer agency