EAST PALESTINE - The village needs to begin developing a plan to stop sanitary sewer overflows from the wastewater treatment plant, or it could face non-renewal of the plant permit and fines by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Dante Fiorino, an engineer with MS Consultants, the firm hired to evaluate the plant, told council at its recent meeting a plan is needed to satisfy the EPA.
In 2011, the agency ordered the village to hire an engineer to study the plant and determine what was causing overflows into some residential homes in the Vine and West Main Street areas. The agency got involved after residents complained to state officials about the overflows that year. Since then, the village has been going over options with MS Consultants to fix the problem.
Fiorino said the study found the problem is originating at the plant, which is backing up.
Plant Superintendent John Jurjavcic has said the overflows occur during periods of heavy rain.
An EPA fact sheet from 2011 for the local plant on Park Drive also stated that was the case.
Fiorino said there were nine recorded overflow events in the Vine Street area between 2007 and 2011. The most recent occurrence was Feb. 12, 2012, Jurjavcic said.
Fiorino said the overflows are a common problem and recalled that Youngstown was fined by the EPA for not properly addressing theirs. Youngstown is still in the process of fixing the problem and has spent millions of dollars doing so since an EPA settlement in 2002. According the EPA website, the Youngstown settlement is expected to eliminate 800 million gallons of illegal sewage discharges a year.
The village's overflows, considered illegal discharges by the agency, are not as drastic. Jurjavcic estimated the overflows account for roughly 40,000 gallons a year.
"We've been gathering data on this for a couple of years," he said.
He added Steubenville is in a similar situation, but like Youngstown, their overflows are more significant than East Palestine's.
The EPA's 2011 order also told the village to alleviate discharges into nearby Leslie Run, which also occurs during periods of heavy rain. Fiorino said as long as the village has a plan in place that shows it will address the problem, the EPA likely will renew the permit and no fines will be enforced.
The engineering firm has suggested the village purchase a 750,000-gallon equalization basin to correct the problem.
Village Manager Pete Monteleone said other studies can be done at the plant over the next six months or year to see if there are other options for fixing the problem. The village has until 2016, when the EPA permit is up for renewal.
"The earlier we can get started the more likely we are to have the possibility to get grants," Fiorino said.
On another matter, Jurjavcic said a new sand and gravel well is needed at the plant. The current well is more than 30 years old and rehabilitation hasn't been successful so far, he said.
"We need to drill a new one We did get a proposal from Moody and Associates on a cost of a new well," he said.
The proposed cost was $70,000. The 8-inch well is one of three at the plant and Jurjavcic said $30,000 has already been aside for the project.