EAST PALESTINE - Village Council will need to decide soon how to go about meeting an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency order to correct overflow problems from the wastewater treatment plant, Wastewater Superintendent John Jurjavcic said this week.
The EPA order was issued in 2011 after residents in the West Main and Vine Street areas contacted state officials complaining that sewage was coming into their homes.
Council later hired MS Consultants to evaluate the plant system, and the engineering firm suggested the village purchase an above-ground 750,000-gallon equalization basin to correct the problem.
Jurjavcic said the basin was estimated to cost between $900,000 and $1.9 million in 2011.
The village has not secured any funding at this point. The EPA order must be met by June 2016.
Jurjavcic said addressing the problem was "pushed back" last year while the village worked on the Moore Lane project, and again when some council members began considering whether to continue working with Gary Clark, who as then village manager and was involved in the project.
Jurjavcic said the new manager, Peter Monteleone, has been briefed on the project and is aware of what needs to be done.
He added that MS has come up with alternatives to the equalization basin for their consideration.
Gary Diorio, an engineer with the firm, told council around this time last year that while they recommended the basin they were not "pushing it."
Jurjavcic said he is meeting with MS next week to go over the alternatives, which include a pilot study at the plant.
The study would consist of stressing the system to see if it could handle bypassing the screen building and a few other processes and go directly to the aeration tanks, he explained.
How much the study would cost has not been determined yet.
Another alternative is to conduct flow studies and smoke and dye testing of the lines, or possibly replace the lines to mitigate infiltration and inflow, he said.
In the EPA order the agency stated the overflows are a result of "excessive infiltration and inflow" at the plant. The overflows are considered "illegal discharges" by the EPA.
Inflow happens when storm water enters the sanitary sewer system at direct points of connection and infiltration occurs when groundwater enters the system through leaks or cracks in system pipes.
Jurjavcic said two overflow incidents have happened since March of 2011, and they were due to heavy rain and melting snow. The overflows affected about three homes in town, he added.
Councilman Fran Figley has said the village shouldn't spend money on the basin unless it is determined to be absolutely necessary.
Several times since he has taken a seat on council Figley has said the village has spent too much unnecessary money on projects. At the recent council meeting he asked Jurjavcic more than once whether the basin was needed to correct the problem.
Jurjavcic didn't wish to take a stance on the matter, although he said the basin is necessary in some cases.
"I think it's something we need to sit down and take a good look at," he said of the basin and alternatives. "Spending some money on the study may save us a lot of money down the road."
Despite the overflow problems, the EPA has found the treatment plant to be in decent order.
Environmental Engineer Joseph Trocchio met with Jurjavcic in January and conducted a compliance evaluation inspection at the plant on Park Drive.
Trocchio recently sent Mayor Margo Zuch and council a letter outlining the results of that inspection.
"The plant staff does a good job maintaining the treatment facilities and is innovative with employing cost saving measures for the city," he wrote.
The plant had only one phosphorus violation, the first in the history of the inspections, he said.
He suggested the plant could save "considerable manpower" by covering the weirs of the new clarifiers and replacing the control switch at the sludge press.
Trocchio was unable to conduct the required survey of the nearby stream but that will be completed this summer.
The routine annual bi-annual inspection is required under the plant's permit.