Sewer Again a Threat to Beautiful Stream Valley

A few years ago, a proposed shopping mall in Green Township (Legacy Place) was defeated by citizens.  They convinced Ohio EPA to deny the developer a water quality permit to destroy almost a mile of headwater streams on the site.  Thanks, Clean Water Act!  This project would have devastated the cold water habitat stream that flows to the Great Miami River.  Cold water habitat is rare in Hamilton County, and headwater streams are essential to aquatic life.

The stream system—known as Wesselman Creek—is again under threat.  “Glenview,” an MSD pump station located near the failed development site, is slated for a relatively inexpensive Consent Decree “upgrade” because, on occasion, it overflows to the stream.  The pump station is nearing the end of its expected life, and also needs a backup power supply—issues which need to be addressed.  Interestingly enough, stormwater removal may already have eliminated much of the overflow problem.  The Consent Decree lists the cost: $760,302.

However, MSD changed its “upgrade” plans and now proposes to build a gravity sewer—1.5 miles in length—along the stream to “eliminate” the pump station.  New cost to MSD’s ratepayers: $3,293,000. MSD does not consider any impacts to nature—including the diverse life in the stream—from bulldozing a wide swath through the mature forest, and excavating in the stream’s riparian corridor.  Hamilton County’s remaining natural areas are priceless and should be protected, not destroyed.

Why the change in plans?  MSD prefers gravity sewers to pump stations.  Green Township wants a sewer to promote growth in this sparcely-populated area. MSD is eyeing the possibility that many more miles of lateral sewers could eventually be connected. Note: only two home sewage treatment systems (HSTS) would be picked up by the proposed sewer. Whether this is the most cost-effective way to provide any needed HSTS elimination has not been addressed.

Seven property owners are on record opposing the sewer for numerous reasons, including its negative impact on the stream.  Three owners are eager for the sewer. They have publicly stated their desire to sell their land for development.  (One of them called it his “retirement,” because the sewer would make his property more valuable to developers.)

So, MSD ratepayers are left paying for a more expensive gravity sewer that would threaten a rare and important stream habitat.  In June 2011, all three Hamilton County Commissioners approved moving forward with design work.  Cincinnati City Council took up the issue in March 2012.  Council has the ability to require that the less expensive—and less environmentally damaging—pump station “upgrade” be done, because it is in the Consent Decree.  Important: City Council must agree to any changes made to the Consent Decree.

Roxanne Qualls’ Livable Communities Committee will be considering a motion on this subject Tuesday  May  8, 2012 at 1 pm.