MARIETTA - The Washington County Commissioners have agreed to develop a plan to alleviate what the Ohio EPA termed "a public health nuisance resulting from ground water pollution in the unincorporated area of Devola."
As part of the plan, the commissioners will submit plans for sewage improvements or other methods of correcting the pollution concerns to the Ohio EPA, according to a release this week from the EPA.
"We acknowledged (Ohio EPA's) mandate to sewer the unsewered area of Devola," said county commissioner Cora Marshall.
Small lots with septic tanks have created problems in the Devola area, she said.
"They work well with larger lots because there's (drainage) space," Marshall added. "The way to eliminate or correct this issue is to send the public sewer flow to Marietta and have it treated there."
Marshall said the county is working with John Grosse, a Columbus-based consulting engineer with Stantec of Logan, to determine a plan and time schedule to be submitted to the Ohio EPA for addressing Devola's sewer issues.
On Oct. 1, county commissioners applied for an Ohio Public Works Commission grant for approximately $2 million, to offset the project's projected $5 million cost.
"The commissioners are doing everything we possibly can to help keep the cost down," said Marshall.
The Putnam Community Water Association has also been working with the Ohio EPA on a plan to reduce nitrate levels in its drinking supply, according to Jay Huck, the water association's manager.
"We've had elevated levels of nitrate in our drinking water for the past 15 years," said Huck.
However, nitrate levels have to reach a certain threshold for residents to be notified.
In late 2009 the water association alerted Devola-area customers that nitrate levels had been detected in their drinking water at 10.55 mg/L (milligrams per liter), above the 10 mg/L maximum contaminant standard set by the Ohio EPA.
An agency investigation following the discovery of the elevated nitrate levels indicated the likely source of the nitrates was the area of the community served by septic systems.
For its part, the Putnam Community Water Association is putting in a reverse osmosis plant to treat its water and reduce nitrate levels, Huck said.
Currently the water association is waiting for final Ohio EPA approvals on a discharge permit, on final plans for the reverse osmosis plant and on an Ohio EPA low-interest loan for the project.
"After that, the project could be bid and then a general contractor would be chosen," said Huck.
Huck said he thinks the project, estimated at $2.1 million, will start by the first of next year and take 10-12 months to complete.
All three parties say they are ultimately concerned with the health of the residents of Devola.
"The whole bottom line is that with sewer (work) and reverse osmosis, the water quality will definitely go up," said Huck.
"It's all about not polluting our water wells and waterways," she said. "We must have quality water to survive like we need clean air."