LORAIN — The final step of getting Lorain’s sewer system in line with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency orders is on track to begin next year, and that means residents likely will be paying more for their sewer service.
The city will be starting that final step, the downtown retention tunnel, next year. Early in 2011, Lorain will be accepting bids for the estimated $46 million project, said city Utilities Director Corey Timko.
The project is expected to be completed in 2014.
Such projects are funded through water and sewer rates, Timko said, and generally require a rate increase.
How much rates will increase, or how the increase will be implemented, has not been decided, Timko said. That will be decided early next year, he said.
Lorain has been working on updating the sewer system to stop sanitary sewage overflow since the Ohio EPA ordered it in 2008, Timko said. It developed a plan at the time to deal with it, he said.
The problem has been that the older, inadequate sewer system can’t handle runoff during heavy rains, Timko said. When the sewer pipes were filled, overflow would go into the river or lake, and sometimes into residents’ basements.
Timko estimated that the city has spent about $100 million since 1998 to upgrade the sewers around the city, putting in bigger sewer pipes and retention basins to deal with overflow.
In recent years, the U.S. EPA has been getting involved, Timko said.
For example, the EPA in June ordered the city to eliminate all sanitary sewage overflow, end all bypasses at the Black River Wastewater Treatment Plant, monitor for sanitary sewage overflow throughout the sanitary sewer system, and submit a plan to deal with the problems within 180 days of the order.
The thing is, Timko said, a lot of that is what the Ohio EPA told Lorain to do in 1998.
“(The U.S. EPA) weren’t covering us in 1998,” he said of the U.S. EPA. “So we were able to show them what we’ve done so far.”
According to Sally Swanson, branch chief for water enforcement and compliance assurance for the Region 5 of the U.S. EPA, the EPA will be modifying several parts of its June order to reflect what Lorain has done and what it’s able to do in the future.
“The point of the order is to lay out our expectations and set time frames for things getting done,” she said.
The EPA wants Lorain to do more studying and reporting on the matter, she said.
“This isn’t a diagnosis of the problem,” she said. “That’s what we’re asking them to do. They need to identify what has been causing overflows.”
Timko said a lot of progress has been made over the years.
“One of the things that has been most gratifying is hearing from residents that basement flooding has gone way down,” he said. “One woman told me that she’d been living in her house 35 years and this is the first year that she hasn’t had a basement flood.”
Contact Melissa Hebert at 329-7129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.