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EPA fines Ironton #036;98,000

Twelve years after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency passed down a mandate that the City of Ironton had to separate its combined sewer system, the EPA has fined the city $98,000.

Since 1996, the city has worked on a CSO plan and in 2005, passed a plan to maintain and improve the storm water system with a fee of $2 per one thousand gallons of water used. The issue in part is that the city has miles of combined sewers some of which are 120 years old.

Councilman Leo Johnson said the city has known about this since 1996, but not much has been done about it until the past couple of years.

“It’s been ignored since 1996 until 2005 when we started really taking care of it,” he said. “I think the EPA has been lenient, they could have fined us much, much more than this. It could have been a lot worse.”

Johnson said the worst-case scenario would have been a $500,000 fine.

“I think the EPA saw where this council and the administration has taken a strong role in trying to get this fixed,” he said.

On tonight’s council agenda is phase I of separating the sewers in the north end of the city. The plan is to work on other parts of the sewer system as money becomes available.

On June 26, Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship will meet with the EPA and see if the fine can be negotiated down or the money put back into the city’s sewer projects.

Blankenship said that cities all along the Ohio River have been dealing with EPA and combined sewers.

He said $98,000 is a low amount compared to what some other cities have faced, but it is still a lot.

“Ten years have gone by and Ironton has done nothing. In the last two years we have built up some money to deal with it but this is a federally mandated consent decree that we have to abide by,” he said, adding that to separate all of the sewers is a project that will cost millions. “The EPA mandated it but didn’t give us any funding for it.”

Blankenship will also be meeting with Congressman Charlie Wilson on June 18 in Washington, D.C. to discuss some previously submitted requests for funding some projects in Ironton including the CSO issue.

“We are trying to get all the grants and funding we possibly can,” Blankenship said. “We need to prioritize Ironton’s needs and the CSO is right at the top.”