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Wastewater issue could cost city $147 million

Published: Tue, August 12, 2014 @ 12:05 a.m.

Options discussed for upgrading system to comply with EPA

Wastewater issue could cost city $147 million

By Burton Speakman



The city could be facing $147 million in costs to upgrade its wastewater treatment system to meet U.S. EPA requirements.

Available options were discussed at Monday’s meeting of the city’s finance committee. Each option would create additional cost for the city and likely result in an increase in city residents’ wastewater bills.

The Environmental Protection Agency wants the city to complete three projects within 13 years, said Daniel Markowitz, principal scientist and certified projection manager from Arcadis, a company that does infrastructure work and is advising the city.

These involve $37 million in upgrades to the treatment plant; a new wet-weather facility to deal with heavier rain that would cost $62 million; and a $48 million interceptor that would keep wastewater from flowing into Mill Creek Park.

If the city follows the EPA timeline, city residents’ cost for wastewater treatment would increase by 5 percent a year for 10 years, he said.

The city has some options such as trying to extend the first phase of the EPA plan, which would reduce the increase to 4 percent a year for 10 years, Markowitz said.

The city also could use “green” options, which could entail shutting down parts of the wastewater system in abandoned areas of the city and allow that water to flow elsewhere. This would reduce how much is treated and therefore the cost.

The city also has the option of appearing before a federal judge to argue the city cannot afford the EPA request, and ask for another option, he said.

Martin Hume, city law director, said going before a judge is a risk for both the city and the EPA. The city could be held to an agreement made in 2013 that is “not considered to be in the best interest of the city.”

The city has to take some action in the event it has to appear in front of a judge, said David Bozanich, city finance director.

“It’s likely going to mean us doing something with rates,” he said.

A temporary rate increase would show the judge the city is operating “in good faith,” Bozanich said.

The city has been dealing with the EPA since 2002 regarding wastewater treatment, when the city submitted an “approvable plan” that was rejected by the agency, Markowitz said.

The issue with the wastewater system is not unique to Youngstown, he said. It impacts many cities in the area whose wastewater systems were built decades ago.

“Things just weren’t done the same back then as they are now,” Bozanich said.

The initial plan called for 85 percent wastewater capture, which is the legal requirement, Markowitz said.

“The EPA doesn’t approve plans with 85 percent capture anymore,” he said.

The agency wants treatment plans where there are only one to four events a year during which the system overflows, Markowitz said.

“The city shouldn’t be afraid about going before a judge,” said Mayor John McNally.

Youngstown has shown it is willing to put money forth to repair the wastewater system, he said. McNally also acknowledged the potential impact that increased rates would have on citizens.

“We already get calls every week about the water bill,” said Janet Tarpley, chair of the committee and 6th Ward councilwoman.

The issue of wastewater will be brought back to the committee for additional discussion within the next four to six weeks, McNally said.


1Silence_Dogood(1670 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

The EPA is an out of control organization that forces communities across this Country to do upgrades without any consideration to cost's of those projects. A perfect example would be that giant building an the south side that the City was FORCED to build to get the EPA off its back. Drive down Meadowbrook on the south side of Youngstown and you will see a giant building that cost the City of Youngstown several million dollars to build that is used a couple times a year, that's right it is only used a handful of times a year. The City was forced to build that multimillion dollar structure because the EPA forced the City to build it. What the Vindy needs to do is an In-depth study of projects like that that are mandated by the Federal Government. Now is the time to bring Federal mandates to the forefront of the public conscience , turn it into a political hot potato, and watch the present party in power bribe the sheeple by providing the money for this project. The EPA by and large is an out of control liberal tree hugging group that is beholding to the Democrat party. If we were to present this issue in those terms right now , and the public viewed it for what it really is ( democrat mandates).The election of the next President which will be here before you know it will cause so much worry with the Democrats that the President will show up with check in hand to pay for this Federal mandate, thereby buying the votes that it requires for success in the next election

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2Silence_Dogood(1670 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

Johnyoung you are right about Bozanich, just a couple months ago, burried in the public notice section of the Vindy was a notice that the Vindy CHOSE to ignore. A MILLION DOLLARS is going to come out of the water/waste water funding to buy camera's for the Police Department. What the heck does cameras have to do with water and waste water. It seems every few months there is a story about redevelopment projects going on in the City. The story is always the same, money from these funds is being redirected or costs waved to these projects. It's the same old story, a million here a million there and pretty soon you are talking about REAL MONEY.

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3Silence_Dogood(1670 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

Not gilligans ginger
As Johnyoung pointed out in his above comment, it has been a common practice with this city for years to use money from the water and waste water dept. to fund other functions of city government. The most recent money grab is by the police dept. to purchase cameras, this was in a public notice for bids in the vindy a couple months ago. There is a strange silence from the vindy on this matter, the vindy knows it is going on and reports on it in a piecemeal fashion but they have never done a compilation report on the total net value of this money grab. And it is in the millions of dollars, and over time it is the tens of millions of dollars. This can in some views be seen as a misappropriation of its intended use. Hoops have been jumped thru so the city can purchase vehicles for other general fund department. There are many other clever ways the city funds projects that by normal routes would require the monies to come from general fund coffers but instead come from water and waste water funds. It would be nice if the vindy would do some real reporting on this city practice but that would take real reporting and investigating, which is not likely.

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4DontBanThisDrone(1036 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

The city should look into selling, or leasing, the water and wastewater utilities to an outside party, be it a private for-profit venture, or an institutional entity, such as a local joint authority.

They could get a one-time lump-sum infusion of cash, which they could put towards raises and pensions, plus an annual (or monthly, same thing) fee from the owner/lessee.

It's been done in many other places, and you should look into it too.


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5Silence_Dogood(1670 comments)posted 1 year, 10 months ago

Southsider that is the question that the EPA should be forced to answer.

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