SALEM - Utilities Commission Chairman Geoff Goll again voiced his intention to not seek bids for the Phase I waste water treatment plant improvements until the state moves on phosphorous local limits and a long-pending consent decree against the city.
Goll said it will be two years this month since they were told a consent decree was on someone's desk and "we have yet to see a draft."
He made the comments during a recent Utilities Commission meeting where the members were updated on the status of the Phase I project. Representatives from Burgess and Niple Inc., the engineers on the project, were meeting this past week with representatives of the Utilities Department to go over the design.
It was expected that the final design would be forwarded to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for review, any changes the agency requests would be made and then the permit to install would be issued, allowing the project to advertise for bids possibly in February.
"We could have a proposed bid package submitted to us, but I will not agree to put out for bid without knowing what our costs will be," Goll said.
Assistant Utilities Superintendent Matt Hoopes said he spoke with someone from the OEPA and they also heard a draft of the consent decree was completed. Everything was depending on the Ohio Attorney General's office.
Goll said he's going to ask their attorney to talk with the Ohio Attorney General's office.
"This is becoming very frustrating," he said.
Last month, he commented that it made no sense to put the project out to bid
if the local limits for phosphorous levels weren't approved yet. The local limit justification had been sent by the city to the OEPA in March 2010 to set the level of phosphorous permitted to come into the system for treatment. The OEPA has yet to approve that level.
The issue began when the OEPA issued a renewal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit to the city in 2002 that put a limit on the level of phosphorous the city could discharge into the Middle Fork of Beaver Creek. The city appealed to the Environmental Review Appeals Commission, but ERAC upheld the decision of the OEPA. The ruling was appealed again, sent back to ERAC, and ended up in court again.
According to Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart, there's a long history regarding phosphorous limits. The city used to remove phosphorous and had a phosphorous limit, but it was determined the level wasn't that high and then there was no limit set. Then the city was told a phosphorous limit had to be set.
Goll said the city would have had no need to update the plant but for the phosphorous issue, noting there was no issue with the plant's capacity.
Since the city might be subject to fines in the consent decree for permit violations, he's indicated previously that he wants the waste water treatment plant upgrade cost credited against any fines.
The cost of the Phase I improvement is estimated to cost $2.8 million.