The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has issued final findings and its orders requiring the city of Norton to begin an $8 million sewer project in its Nash Heights neighborhood.
EPA Director Scott Nally signed the seven-page document Wednesday, and it was released Thursday morning.
Repairing or replacing faulty septic systems in the Nash Heights area is not a feasible solution due to small lot sizes and soil conditions in the area, the EPA said.
Mayor Mike Zita signed the agreement Nov. 4, following its approval by the City Council.
The city must submit a “permit to install” by today for Phase 1 of the project in what’s identified as the Nash Heights East area. That sewer construction must begin by May 15 and be completed by June 1, 2015.
Phase 2 includes Greenwich Road/state Route 21 pump stations and force mains. The agreement calls for the city to submit required permits to the EPA by April 30. Construction must begin by March 30, 2015, and be completed by May 30, 2016.
Phase 3, or Nash Heights West, requires the city to submit the required permits by April 30, 2015. Construction must begin by March 30, 2016, and be completed by May 30, 2017.
The EPA’s orders will remain in place until the sewer project is completed satisfactorily.
Norton is expected to seek $2.6 million in low-interest loans through the EPA for the project, which affects 400 households that rely on aging and ineffective septic systems.
The EPA got involved in April, after Summit County Public Health declared the Norton neighborhood to be a public health nuisance because of high bacteria levels in ditches that transport stormwater to nearby streams and Lake Dorothy.
Tests showed elevated levels of fecal coliform ranging from 20 to greater than 240,000 fecal colonies per 100 milliliters of water. The limit is 5,000.
The problem was traced to “poorly operating and antiquated sewage treatment systems” or home septic systems, the EPA said.
Last June, the EPA conducted its own tests. They showed elevated E.coli levels ranging from 3,600 to 2.4 million E.coli per 100 milliliters of water. The limit is 576 colonies.
That data and the subsequent EPA investigation “confirmed the existence of unsanitary conditions and documented violations of Ohio’s general water quality criteria,” the state agency said.
“In general, the residential lots within the Nash Heights area exhibit characteristics unsuitable for or detrimental to, new or upgraded on-lot individual sewage disposal systems due to their respective size and soil conditions.
“Accordingly, the replacement or repair of existing on-site sewage disposal systems is an unacceptable solution to remedy the unsanitary conditions,” the EPA said.
The agreement also spells out that changes in city leadership, including city council, will have no impact on installing sewers. If the city fails to comply with the agreement, the EPA would ask the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to take the city to court, EPA spokesman Mike Settles said.
A special election Dec. 10 will ask voters to limit the maximum cost of the sewer work for each homeowner at $5,000. A similar charter issue failed Aug. 6.
City taxpayers as a whole would be responsible for the rest of the costs, probably from Norton’s general fund.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or email@example.com.