The city of Akron has asked a federal appeals court to vacate a portion of its 2012 decision in the lawsuit over the city’s combined sewers.
Cleveland attorneys Michael Hardy and Anthony Rospert and Akron Law Director Cheri Cunningham filed the motion Friday with the Cincinnati-based U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In July 2012, the appeals court had remanded the city’s case back to U.S. District Judge John Adams in Akron to determine if a proposed consent decree involving Akron, the U.S. Justice Department and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office was fair, reasonable and consistent with public interest.
That appeal was filed after Adams, in March 2011, rejected the initial November 2009 consent decree to which the parties had agreed. He wanted firmer deadlines for sewer construction projects and wanted the sewer cleanup accelerated because it was affecting the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
In late 2011, a revised plan to fix the overflows by 2027 was resubmitted to Adams. Akron submitted the plan, conditioned on the judge approving the decree “without either revision or prolonged delay,” the city wrote.
Adams has not yet ruled on the revised consent decree, however. He is awaiting an independent analysis of the report by an Oregon law professor.
If the appeals court concurs with Akron’s request, the appeal of Adams’ initial rejection then could proceed to be heard by the appeals court.
Last week, Akron said it was withdrawing its Long-Term Control Plan that specifies what projects are needed to curtail Akron’s 34 remaining combined sewer overflows (CSOs) that pollute the Cuyahoga and Little Cuyahoga rivers and the Ohio & Erie Canal after heavy rains and snow melts. Up to 2 billion gallons of untreated sewage annually go into the local waterways.
Akron’s remedy calls for zero untreated discharges going into waterways — at a cost of $1.4 billion, city officials said.
The city said it was withdrawing the plan, a key element of the document pending before Adams, because of continuing delays.
Those delays have presented “substantial uncertainty” to Akron, and the price to fix the sewers has grown from $838 million in 2010 to the current estimate of $1.4 billion, the city said.
Higher costs are expected to sharply increase sewer rates for 300,000 customers in Akron and 13 suburbs who use the system.
Akron intends to work with the federal EPA on what’s called an Integrated Plan that might give the city more flexibility in creating a remedy that includes green infrastructure, which could help Akron reduce the sewers’ costs. Such a revision might require Adams’ approval.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.