County to seek help on sewers

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

They are looking for some help from higher sources.

Union-Rome Sewer District Manager Tim Porter delivered to the Lawrence County Commission Thursday a box with 638 letters signed by sewer district customers, all urging state and federal officials to fork over government funding to pay for Environmental Protection Agency-mandated system improvements.

The Ohio EPA has ordered the sewer district to make massive improvements to its 20-plus-year old system at a cost of $14.3 million.

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A month ago local officials had asked sewer district customers to write letters to state and local legislators, asking them to fund the improvements since the county is not in a financial condition to do it on its own. Doug Cade, of E.L. Robinson and Associates, who is the engineer for the project, said he is pleased with the response: Those 638 letters are not the sum total of the area’s pen-and-paper outpouring.

“Judy Newman (field representative for U.S. 6th District Congressman Ted Strickland) said she had several letters and Ohio Rep. (Clyde) Evans said he had several letters, too. And they will probably have a lot more once we get through with this,” Cade said.

“I applaud your efforts, yours and Doug’s (Cade)” Commission President George Patterson told Porter.

“I wish all the customers would send letters.”

“This sounds like a pretty good response,” Commissioner Doug Malone agreed. “As a commission, I think we’re planning on hand-delivering these to the state legislators and hand-delivering them to the people in Washington, too: Congressman Strickland, Senator DeWine and everyone there.”

Some $10 million in federal funding for the sewer district is part of a bill that has been or will be introduced in Congress in Washington, D.C.

The existing sewer system went on-line in the mid 1980s and is now considered outdated and undersized for the growing eastern end it serves.

“It was designed to treat 1.1 million gallons a day,” Porter explained. “They figure that at 75 percent of that, it’s working at full capacity. We treat 900 thousand gallons a day so really, we’re over capacity.”

While local officials have applied for grants and loans, grant dollars these days are scarce and highly competitive and loans have to be paid back with interest.

Those sewer district customers who would like to join the letter-writing campaign but have not yet done so may contact the sewer district office.