Washington County Commission pipes up on Devola sewer project

MARIETTA — The Washington County Board of Commissioners opened the floor at the end of Thursday’s business meeting for discussion about the Devola sewer project and two commissioners shared their preference for the sewer system to be installed.

No decisions were made at the meeting.

During January’s public meeting at Washington State Community College, the engineering firm WSP outlined two main alternatives for the sewer system — gravity or pressurized.

The gravity system, which is what the City of Marietta uses, would require the construction of at least one new pump station at nearly $250,000 each, said Rich Wischmann, sewer design engineer.

The estimated total capital construction cost of this system is $17.4 million with an annual operating and maintenance cost of $149,000 per year.

As outlined in the general plan submitted to the Ohio EPA, the gravity system would require PVC sewer main pipe in diameters ranging from 8 inches to 10 inches. Along with the new lift stations, it would require excavations that are typically 10 to 12 feet deep.

The gravity system transports wastewater mainly by gravity along a downward-sloping pipe. Lift stations are required to get the wastewater from a valley to a higher elevation.

If the engineers go with the gravity system, the new lift stations could be placed on Masonic Park Drive or near Magnum Magnetics.

The second option, the pressure sewer system, would lessen the amount of excavation needed. A single excavation on each property would connect the lateral to a grinder pump. Instead of digging 10 to 12 feet deep, the laterals would be constructed in a trench just below the frost line, which is about 30 inches deep.

With the pressure system, the wastewater would flow to the Devola Lift Station and then to the Marietta Wastewater Treatment Plant. Individual grinder pump units would be installed at each property to lift the sewage and pressurize the system, eliminating the need for a major lift station.

The pressure system’s estimated total construction cost would be $12.5 million with operating and maintenance costs of $105,000 per year. The individual grinder pump units would require maintenance every three to five years, Wischmann said at January’s meeting. If the pump would go bad after the warranty is expired, it would be up to the homeowner to pay to fix or replace it at a cost of approximately $1,500 for a new pump.

“These comments may be premature, but with the EPA breathing down our necks, I think I need to say publicly that I am leaning toward a pressurized sewer system in Devola for four simple reasons,” said Commissioner Kevin Ritter.

The first reason is that the cost of the pressurized system is lower than the gravity system.

“We owe it to the citizens of Devola to install the best system possible and we owe it to all Washington County sewer customers who will share in that cost, to do it as cost-effectively as possible,” he said.

A smaller footprint for the pressurized system is the second reason. The lines won’t have to be buried as deeply, which will be less intrusive and disruptive to homeowners.

The third reason is ease of maintenance, as the lines won’t be buried as deep. The last reason is the infiltration and inflow (INI) when water, such as rainwater, gets into the sewer system from the outside. The water must be treated, which can be costly.

“I will continue to do my homework over the coming days, but I am inclined to believe the pressurized system would be the best option for Devola and the best option for Washington County,” Ritter added.

Commissioner David White concurred with what Ritter said.

“There are negatives to every system. We are going to put a sewer system into Devola, there’s no question about it. The court has decided we will, so we will,” he said. “Every system we consider has its negatives and its positives. There is no perfect system. There is no perfect way to deal with sewage.”

He said it seems the positives of the pressurized system outweigh the negatives, which are purely mechanical for maintenance reasons.

Commission President Ron Feathers said county commissioners and villages, among others, have been contacted about their sewer systems.

One resident had a question about whether the Devola system would impact Barlow.

“Oh, absolutely,” Feathers said. “Everything we do has an impact all over.”

He said he won’t know exactly how Barlow will be affected until the engineer’s estimates and the contractor’s price for the work come in. When a lift system was put in at Little Hocking, Barlow residents help pay for it through the enterprise fund.

“Any of the maintenance done is spread throughout all of the 1,250 current sewer customers,” Feathers added. “Any debt service pays for work done in the past. We’re taking on new customers every year, somebody builds a new home somewhere. They are paying that rate on old debt service until the debt service is paid off.”

He said with the enterprise fund, there is no way to separate one project from another.

“It’s no different than AEP. It’s no different than your East Dominion Gas company,” he noted.

Feathers also addressed how much the county paid to fight the Ohio EPA’s orders.

“The total cost to the county in fighting this was less than $2,000. That was our mediation charge for three times we tried to mediate. That’s it,” he said. “When you hear things this time of the year about how it’s cost hundreds of thousands, or millions, or trillions for the county to fight it, no it hasn’t.”

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.