Engineer sees solution to Hanoverton sewer dilemma

LISBON — In exchange for addressing the village of Hanoverton’s sewer problems, the Columbiana County Engineer’s Office is asking it no longer be required to provide municipal sewer service to the LaCroft area of Liverpool Township.

Instead, the county health department has agreed to put some of the $200,000 in state grant money it received toward repairing or replacing malfunctioning septic systems in LaCroft on an as-needed basis.

“The idea is for the county and health department to work in tandem to resolve the septic problems in both of these areas in the county,” said Troy Graft, chief deputy sanitary engineer for the engineer’s office.

Graft and he and his boss, county Engineer Bert Dawson, sent a letter to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency laying out a plan to assume responsibility of Hanoverton in exchange for the OEPA backing off requiring the county extend municipal sewer service to LaCroft.

About 20 years ago, the OEPA ordered the county to extend sewer service from Calcutta to the Substation and Glenmoor areas of St. Clair Township to address widespread problems of malfunctioning septic systems. The OEPA also wanted the same thing done with LaCroft. The OEPA allowed the work to proceed in phases, with the Glenmoor and Substation phases completed two years ago for about $10 million.

While this was going on the OEPA ordered the county to provide sewer service to the crossroads community of Kensington in Hanover Township, which it did by building a $2.8 million sewage treatment plant. Like Glenmoor, Substation and LaCroft, Kensington is an unincorporated area, making it the county’s responsibility to provide mandated sewer service.

About the same time, the OEPA ordered Hanoverton to come up with a plan to provide sewer service to its residents, which is the village’s responsibility. Building its own treatment plant was out of the question because of the expense and financial burden on residents, and Hanoverton determined it would still cost the village $3 million to build a collection system and transfer its sewage to the Kensington plant two miles away.

The Kensington plant was built so it could be expanded to include Hanoverton, and Dawson has agreed to take on responsibility, provided certain conditions are met, including the county be guaranteed enough state funding so the cost to village households would not exceed what Kensington residents are paying.

Unlike Kensington and Hanoverton, Graft said LaCroft is not under court orders by the OEPA but something called the director’s final findings and order, which does not carry quite the same urgency. In fact, the OEPA has yet to define the specific areas it would want served in Liverpool Township. The county does not believe the septic problem in LaCroft is as widespread as in the other areas, which is why they are asking the state to address the issue by providing the health department with more grant money to repair individual septic systems on a case-by-case basis.

Lori Barnes, the health department’s environmental director, said they recently received a $200,000 state grant for the repair or replacement of malfunctioning septic tanks, the latest in a series of annual grants the agency has received for that purpose. After meeting in December with county officials, she said they hope to be able to put at least half of this year’s grant toward LaCroft.

How many septics can be repaired will depend on the number of applications the health department receives from LaCroft residents, she said, adding they will soon begin mailing out letters to residents advising them of the grant program.

She said it has cost between $16,000 to $25,000 to address septic problems based on past experience, depending on whether a new system had to be installed. Lower income households could qualify to have 50 percent, 85 percent or 100 percent of the cost paid for by the grant, however.