Friday, March 12, 2004

Residents say creek contains sewage

Mariemont group fears health risk

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MARIEMONT - Village leaders and a resident who has been testing water in a creek here complain raw sewage is spewing into it.

They want the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati to immediately fix the problem in Whiskey Run Creek, especially now that weather is warming up and more people - and their pets - are expected in Dogwood Park.

The mile-long creek starts in Columbia Township, flows through Dogwood Park and empties about a half-mile later into the Little Miami River, a federal and state scenic river.

"That little creek has a huge flow of raw sewage," Mariemont Councilman Doug Adams said. "Nobody has gotten sick, but all it takes is one.

Environmental and public health officials said Thursday the risk to health probably is low because the creek is not drinking or bathing water. But they recommended keeping children and pets out of the creek if raw sewage is seen or smelled.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's Dayton office will investigate, environmental specialist Bruce Smith said.

Pete Gemmer, spokesman for Hamilton County General Health District, said the agency has not received any nuisance complaints about the creek.

"Walking around or in the creek, the risk would be low," Gemmer said. "But certainly it's not water that anyone would want to drink or consume, even a pet. A pet could potentially pass along bacteria. Our message to parents is: Use common sense and if you smell or notice raw sewage, keep a distance."

Mariemont resident Linda Bartlettsays she has smelled sewage in the park while hiking there with her two sons, ages 9 and 11, and daughter, 12.

"They love to go play in the creek," Bartlett, 42, said. "I will probably keep the kids away until I know more definite things."

Whiskey Run Creek routinely is tested by Mariemont resident Don Hopkins as part of a volunteer monitoring program with the river conservation group Little Miami Inc. for waterways that flow into the 105-mile Little Miami River.

This summer, the sewer district plans to embark on a 25-month project to fix Mariemont's sewer leaks in the park by installing a 5,800-foot sewer line in the median along Wooster Pike.

Work must be done by July 31, 2006, as part of an agreement the sewer district has filed in federal court. The agreement outlines ways the district will end overflows of sewage into streets, streams and other public areas.

The project means some of Mariemont's tall, older trees in the project area - the gateway along Wooster into the village - will be torn out and replaced with smaller ones.

Adams also objects to that and wants the sewer district to come up with an alternative.

Bob Campbell, deputy director of the sewer district, said he has known about three or four sanitary sewer overflows into the park.

"This project we are doing will eliminate those. That is what is so frustrating about this. On one hand we have Little Miami Inc. saying, 'Clean it up,' and we have Mariemont saying, 'We aren't going to cooperate with you.'"

He said there is nothing the sewer district can do to stop the sewage overflows until the new sewer line is laid.

Mariemont Village Council will hold a community meeting at 8:30 a.m. Saturday in council chambers at 6907 Wooster Pike to discuss the coming sewer project with The Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati.


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