Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Creek sewage brings $98K fine

Ohio EPA fines Lebanon for plant waste released into water

By Cindi Andrews candrews@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON - The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has fined the city nearly $100,000 for releasing inadequately treated sewage into Turtle Creek numerous times from 1998 to 2001.

        “It's a lot of problems that we were working on, but when we got some big rains a couple years ago, it exacerbated them,” Councilman James Reinhard said. “We've got good people working up there” in the water and sewer departments.

        City Council is expected to approve the $98,503 payment at its meeting at 7:30 tonight at City Hall, 50 S. Main St.

        The problems occurred at a treatment plant near Lebanon Industrial Park that's no longer used. The OEPA's initial fine was more than $170,000, but the city negotiated a reduction.

        The city shut the plant Jan. 22, 2001, and redirected sewage to another treatment plant after the OEPA found violations Jan. 19, according to findings issued by the OEPA. Weekly reports the city sent the OEPA beginning in November 1999 also revealed “nearly continuous violations” of the amount of water permitted to be released into Turtle Creek, the findings report.

        When sewage exceeded the plant's capacity, it went into the creek without adequate treatment, Service Director Scott Brunka said. The creek flows into the Little Miami River, which in turn flows into the Ohio River.

        Turtlecreek Township resident Bob Buffenbarger is not impressed with the Ohio EPA's action.

        “There's no consistency in the policing,” said Mr. Buffenbarger, president of the Residents' Association of West-Central Warren County, a grass-roots environmental group.

        “Wherever there's a treatment plant and they have a problem, they dump it into the creek,” he said. “I don't know how you can point a finger at one and not point it at all of them. Lebanon just got caught.”

        Lebanon is planning several improvements to its sewage system, Mr. Brunka said, including a new holding facility, a redesign and upgrade of its remaining treatment plant, and a new pump station on Glosser Road. They all should be completed by late next year.

        “We're trying to be proactive about it at this point,” he said.

        The city has a lawsuit pending against Woolpert LLP, a Dayton, Ohio, engineering consulting firm, alleging flaws in the design of the city's current treatment plant. However, that suit is not related to the violations at the industrial park plant, Mr. Brunka said.


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