SALEM - An engineer working on the Salem wastewater treatment plant upgrade said he's hoping submission of the final design to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency "puts the ball in their court."
"We'll see what happens in the next couple months," Bob Schreiner of Burgess and Niple Inc. said Tuesday.
Schreiner updated members of the Salem Utilities Commission on the status of the Phase I plans during their final meeting of the year, saying the final design plan was being sent to the OEPA for review with an application for a Permit to Install, which is required for the project to move forward.
He said the process to acquire the permit usually takes 45 to 60 days to give time for the review, to make any required changes to the plans and then return them to the OEPA for final approval and issuance of the permit. He said they could advertise for bids in February if all goes well and acknowledged that the OEPA knows they've been working on these plans.
He explained the planned improvements to the wastewater treatment plant are part of a phosphorous local limits commitment made a couple of summers ago, noting that the work will help with the quality of the final affluent. Phase I is part of a three-phase project to upgrade the plant, with the cost of Phase I estimated at more than $2.7 million.
During the past couple of meetings, Commission Chairman Geoff Goll has made clear that it's not his intention to go out for bids on the project until the OEPA responds to the city's local limit justification, which was submitted on March 16, 2010, and until an alleged consent decree which has been talked about for years for alleged permit violations is issued against the city.
He said the city has been in discussions with the OEPA since 2000 over this matter and they were told three years ago that a draft consent decree was sitting on a desk in the Ohio Attorney General's office. That assistant AG attorney resigned and two other people have been in that position since. There have been changes at the top in the AG's office and the director of the OEPA has changed. As recent as six months ago, he said they were told again that a draft consent decree was being discussed between the AG's office and OEPA.
He said he doesn't want the project to go to bid until they know what the consent decree is going to cost the department. He said it has nothing to do with the capacity of the plant, but only has to do with the discharge.
Goll said if they haven't heard anything by January, they may need to get the help of their local and state officials to set up a meeting with the parties. He said they haven't been responding to the commission's inquiries.
In other business, the commission discussed the Stewart Road water reservoir and the need to circulate water the help eliminate the buildup of chemical byproducts. Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart said there's still some work to do to determine what's needed.
In response to a report concerning the inspection of the Highland Avenue Water Tank, he said the tank should be rehabbed and remain in service, but commission members asked him to prepare a report explaining the continual need of the tank, the cost estimate to make repairs and the cost to remove the tank.
Before ending the meeting, commission member Bob Hodgson said he had a presentation to make, left the room and returned with a cake for Assistant Utilities Superintendent Matt Hoopes, who celebrated his birthday Tuesday.
The next meeting will be held at 3 p.m. Jan. 8.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at email@example.com