EPA Letter and Our Opinions
We have obtained a copy of the official letter from the EPA to the City of New Albany dated Feb. 6th, 2006, which outlines the requirements of work that must still be completed before any sewer credits will be allotted.
The letter clearly states that although the upgrade of the Sewage Plant has increased capacity...:
"New Albany is still, however, experiencing significant overflows..."
The letter goes on to cite specific instances of concern such as a 94,000 gallon overflow on Nov. 15th, 2005, and another 38,000 gallon overflow on Nov. 28th, 2005, and there are 2 projects the City must complete in order to utilize the plant's increased capacity without experiencing overflows. They express concerns:
"The November 28 overflows are particularly troubling, as a 1.5 inch rain event is substantially smaller than storms the plant improvements were designed to endure without sanitary sewer overflows in the system."
PROOF OF THE LETTER:
The EPA letter further explains:
"...[T]here are two projects that the City must complete in order to routinely use the full capacity of the upgraded facility without experiencing these overflows, and [the EPA] has conditioned the award of approximately the first two thirds of the credits upon the completion of these two projects."
The two projects required are the installation of an upgraded bar screen, and upgrades to the Robert E. Lee lift station.
"As evidenced by my December 17, 2004 letter, we have been concerned with the delays in the bar screen upgrade process for several years, and failures at the bar screen have caused a significant number of bypasses and overflows. We will issue the final third of the credits one year after the completion of the upgrades to the Robert E. Lee lift station if these two projects have successfully eliminated overflows occurring due to these problem areas."
Folks, this portion of the letter acknowledges that Mayor Garner was directly made aware of the source of our sewer problems, and the repairs needed to resolve the matter, in December of 2004, his first year in office. After all, he did appoint himself Chair of the Sewer Board upon his election as Mayor.
This portion of the letter also explains that even once the 2 projects are completed, they will not issue the final third of the sewer credits until we pass a one year oversight period showing that overflows have been alleviated.
In 2002, when Garner was a sitting Council Member, the Council passed (9-0) a resolution (R-02-51) pledging $270K in annual EDIT funds for the purpose of Sewer Works maintenance and repairs in order to meet the EPA mandates. However, these designated funds have not been utilized for necessary repairs, per the resolution, since Garner took office, and nobody seems to know where the money went. They will only tell us it is gone.
When asked how they intend to replace this money, all we got was a shrug of the shoulders from our Mayor.
WHAT ABOUT ACCOUNTABILITY???
The letter concludes:
"The EPA is not currently issuing, nor including in the above schedule, additional credits for the excess flow basin (EFB). As I (Sally K. Swanson, Chief, Water Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Branch of the U.S. EPA) noted in my Oct. 6, 2004 letter granting 61,000 credits for the EFB, [the] EPA reserved issuance of an additional 61,000 credits because the City has been unable to fill the EFB. At the date of this letter [Feb.6, 2006], approximately 15 months later, the City has still not utilized the full capacity of the EFB.
EPA recognizes that the bar screen repairs at the headworks of the plant may allow full usage of the EFB, and will consider issuance of these credits in the future, if the City can fill the EFB to alleviate overflows."
Now, the time has come when the City is at a virtual standstill for any significant Economic Development growth due to the lack of allowable sewer credits.
Their plan for obtaining/replacing the money needed to meet the EPA mandates? Raising our sewer rates by as much as 50%!!! We are outraged, and feel that this is not only absurd, but unethical as well. We all antied up with a 49% rate increase in the last administration, giving them a whopping $44 million to "fix" the sewer problems. Only, they didn't fix them. They simply increased the holding capacity of the plant, but the mechanisms for getting the sewage into the nice new big beautiful plant are broken or lacking. They did not do the work that was mandated by the EPA, and we will refuse to pay for more of their mistakes out of our pockets.
We contend they should rescind the EDIT money pledged to the Scribner pool. We could sure use the annual $400K to get into compliance with the EPA without a rate increase to the citizens. The "Y" would still be built and have an opportunity to prove its ability to spawn downtown development. The pool can be built later.
Call your Council Representative and tell them what you think!
To sum it all up:
"This language will also be included in Exhibit 4 of the Amended Consent Decree as part of the forthcoming negotiated changes to that Decree:
The City shall not permit any new industrial, commercial, or residential developments that would have the effect of adding at any particular connection point flows equal to or exceeding 50 houses or 15,500 gpd at full buildout or in the aggregate unless the City first receives approval from EPA."