Eastern end has a lot at stake with sewer project

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 29, 2007

ROME TOWNSHIP — It will be 21st century technology to deal with an age-old problem: sewage treatment.

It will satisfy the ever-tightening water pollution control standards set by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

And local officials say more than that, the new Union-Rome Wastewater Treatment Plant will be a part of a plan to accommodate and even encourage growth in eastern Lawrence County now and in the years to come.

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In 2002, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency determined the existing Union-Rome wastewater treatment plant did not meet National Pollution Discharge Environmental System (NPDES) standards because it exceeded ammonia discharge limits.

Excess ammonia discharged into the Ohio River is harmful to aquatic life. EPA officials mandated that the county make necessary improvements to the plant to eliminate the problem.

But some local officials expressed concerns about merely making repairs to an old system that was working at or near capacity and left little room to accommodate the influx of new customers.

“It (the existing plant) was designed to treat 1.1 million gallons a day,” Union-Rome Sewer District Administrator Tim Porter said. “They figure that at 75 percent of that, it’s working at full capacity. We treat 950 thousand gallons a day, so really, we’re over capacity.”

So local officials opted to both solve the pollution problem and plan for the future by building new.

What it is

After visiting nearly a dozen other newer wastewater treatment facilities, local officials settled on a membrane bioreactor process — something new for this area, but in use throughout the world because of its ability to deliver high quality wastewater treatment that meets even the toughest environmental regulations in a compact system.

“A lot of places are going with this kind of system because it meets EPA standards for water quality,” Doug Cade, of E.L. Robinson engineering consultants said. “Water quality standards are getting stiffer. They want to improve water quality in the Ohio River and Lake Erie and creeks and streams and this system meets the standards.”

The system Lawrence County will get is made by Kubota, the Japanese firm that is probably better known in the U.S. for its tractors. According to the Kubota Web site, the micro-filtration membrane sheets are made from chlorinated polyethylene with four micron-sized pores. Treated water permeates through the membrane sheets but contaminants are trapped on the other side. The system has been in use in Japan since the 1960s but was not used in the U.S. until 2001.

While water quality is one of its more touted features, West Chesapeake area residents may appreciate it for an entirely different reason — the new MBR plant will greatly reduce if not eliminate the odor issue that has plagued the existing system.

It will also use less space. The new plant will be one-fifth the size of the existing one. Part of the existing plant would be used for flow equalization.

Design began on a new facility in February 2005. The project will take two years to complete. Cade said he expects construction to begin this fall. It will be built on land alongside the existing facility on County Road 1 in Chesapeake.

A horse of a different color

The new plant will be a bit of an oddity: There are only 12 other MBR plants operating in Ohio.

Lawrence County’s will make No. 13. However, Porter said another 27 are being designed.

Lawrence County’s will be the first built on the Ohio River.


Once they realized they needed to build a new plant, county leaders began searching for money to pay for construction.

The new plant won’t come cheap — $23 million. Right now $5 million

has been included in the federal Water Resources Development Act that is making its way through Congress.

County officials have also applied for other state and federal grants.

The county is also in line to borrow up to $25 million in a low-interest loan from the OEPA.

Future plans

In the last 10 years, eastern Lawrence County has gone from bucolic to booming. New residential communities and small strip malls have replaced once empty bottomland.

“The growth in eastern Lawrence County has been dramatic and one of the major elements that made it possible has been the present (sewer) system,” Greater Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dr. Bill Dingus said. He said the new system, with its greater capacity, will ensure that the growth can continue.

“With the new system I think we will see growth for the next decade and I think it will be diversified,” Dingus said. “I see a lot of consumer-oriented business, such as retail and services.”

Plans continue for RiverWalk, a $100-million-plus development that would put residential housing, recreational offerings, compatible commercial ventures and even a marina on 135 acres of land along the Ohio River in Rome and Union townships.

Consultant Pat Clonch said developers are waiting now on necessary federal environmental and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits.

“It is bureaucratic entanglement, but it has got to be done right,” Clonch said. “It has taken longer than we thought it would.”

Clonch agreed the existing system has been a catalyst for growth in the eastern end and a newer, larger replacement for it can only continue the development that has been almost unabated in the last 10 years.

Local officials also want to include areas of eastern Lawrence County that are not now served by the system to be linked to it once the new plant is built.