Union-Rome sewage plant on track

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

CHESAPEAKE — The Union-Rome Sewer District’s new multimillion-dollar sewage treatment plant is moving toward construction, and federal money earmarked for the district’s use could give the project a much-needed financial boost.

The district is replacing its existing plant with a larger one that will handle more sewage. The current plant can handle a little more than 1 million gallons of sewage a day; and most days, the plant is near or at capacity, said sewer district administrator Tim Porter.

Porter said the district needs a new plant, but more importantly, it has been told that it must have one.

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During a 2004 inspection, the Environmental Protection Agency found that the system had an inadequate process of removing ammonia from its sewage discharge. The ammonia is harmful to some species — including flathead minnows and water fleas — that live in local waterways.

E.L. Robinson and Associates began work on the design phase of the plant early last year and is about two weeks away from completing their work, Porter said. Then, he said, the project will go out for bid in July, bids will be awarded a few months later and construction could start by late this year.

The EPA has directed that the entire projected by completed within four years.

Money for the project is coming from loans from the EPA and, hopefully, Porter said, state and federal grants. Sewer rates were also raised last year — the first time since 1989 — in an effort to offset the cost of construction.

Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives appropriated $10 million in funds for the project as part of an agriculture bill pushed through by Congressman Ted Strickland, D-6th District,

“The residents of Union and Rome townships will benefit greatly from this project,” Strickland said.

“Lawrence County will be able to better serve the 5,000 homes and businesses that currently rely on the system as well as expanding this service to 800 additional homes and businesses.”

Strickland said the projects will not only improve the quality of life for current customers, but it also will allow more access to more customers in the future. Porter agreed.

“Really the plant’s got to grow before the community can,” he said. “At the current capacity, we can’t handle much more without expanding.”