3 Mahoning Co. sewer plants accused of excessive pollution

The county believes the plants comply with environmental standards.



YOUNGSTOWN — The state has sued the Mahoning County commissioners, alleging excessive pollutants have been discharged from three county-operated sewage treatment plants into Mill or Meander creeks and the Mahoning River in recent years.

The suit, filed Wednesday by Attorney General Marc Dann, alleges discharges of ammonia, phosphorus, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, silver and bacteria from human waste occurred in violation of the county’s permits from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

The suit also alleges the county failed to properly monitor and report discharges from the three plants.

The suit says the violations occurred at the Boardman Wastewater Treatment Plant of East Parkside Drive, which discharges into Mill Creek; the Meander Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant on state Route 46 in Mineral Ridge, which discharges into Meander Creek; and the Campbell Sewage Treatment Plant on Wilson Avenue, which discharges into the Mahoning River.

The suit also complains of unauthorized discharges from a Wilson Avenue sewer overflow into the Mahoning River.

The three sewage treatment plants are operated by the county sanitary engineer’s office. The violations are alleged to have occurred from 2000 to the present at the Meander and Boardman plants and from 2002 to the present at the Campbell plant.

The Wilson Avenue overflow, where unauthorized sewage discharges allegedly occurred on various dates between January 2005 and March 2007, is part of the sewer system leading to the Campbell plant.

What the suit asks for

The lawsuit, filed in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, asks for a court order directing the county to comply with its Ohio EPA permits and a fine of $10,000 a day per violation to be levied against the county. The case is assigned to Judge Maureen A. Sweeney.

County Prosecutor Paul Gains, who represents the commissioners, said the contaminant levels the state complains about in the suit are so small, they’re measured in parts per billion, adding that the county would contest the state’s claims.

It is impossible to achieve 100 percent compliance with environmental standards at all times, Gains said. Because treatment plant breakdowns and floods associated with heavy rains may cause inevitable releases of contaminants, the courts and pollution control industry recognize a substantial compliance standard, he added.

The county believes its treatment plants are in substantial compliance with environmental standards, Gains said.

“Mahoning County has taken a proactive approach,” to environmental protection, Gains said, citing $20 million the county has spent in recent years for new sewer installations to alleviate pollution. The largest problem the county faces is from septic systems, which discharge directly into lakes, he said.

Gains said he knew of no recent complaints from neighbors concerning odor or poor quality water discharges from the Boardman, Meander Creek or Campbell treatment plants.

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