Category Archives: Comms Committee

Cincinnati and Hamilton County rush to deal on 45-year County take-over of Sewer District

Infighting between Cincinnati and Hamilton County has gotten in the way of implementing sewer consent decree projects that would clean some of the worst polluted water in the United States. By the Sewer Districts own reckoning, over 8 billion gallons of untreated sewage mixed with rain water, go into the Ohio River, Mill Creek and Muddy Creek. The Sewer District continually violates the Clean Water Act, exceeds standards by millions and continues to maintain illegal Sanitary Sewer Overflows.

Sierra Club remains concerned that the creation of a new five-member board of City of Cincinnati (2) and Hamilton County (3) appointed members to oversee operations, recreates the same potential for conflict. “Supermajorities” (4of 5) are required for major decisions; supermajority requirements tend to prevent, rather than encourage projects. The commitment letter seeks to let the City out of the consent decree, yet maintains a level of control that could interfere with consent decree work. These delays will add to the City’s prediction that a number of consent decree projects will already be late. The importance of the consent decree work needs to have primacy in the new agreement, but currently doesn’t. At the same time, the commitment letter also leaves the dispute about asset ownership up in the air.

We sought to have the deadline extended to allow for more consideration of this 45-year deal to fix it and allow other options to be explored. While the deadline was extended from the original 1 week, it did not allow sufficient time for the public to be more fully informed and consider other options.

The mediation between the City and County, which led to the commitment letter, was under a gag order by the judge assigned to the consent decree. The next set of projects to be completed by the Sewer District, under the consent decree, were due to US EPA on June 30. The County requested, and may still want, a one year delay in submitting this set of commitments for work that begins in 2019. US EPA, at this point, has granted a 4-month extension until October 31, 2017. Bizarrely, the City and County will not release even a draft of the Phase 2 plan for public review (beyond the list created in 2010 which has most likely changed in at least some respects.)

Sierra Club is also concerned about the status of verbal commitments made by the current management to businesses and residents about sewer projects. Will they be honored by the future management?

Thanks to diligent and fast work by Sierra Club attorneys and many members of the public, some changes were made to the commitment letter, over the weekend before the Monday morning vote. Sierra Club offered draft language, some of which was accepted. We appreciate members of Council and the Commission’s willingness to meet and discuss issues of concern about this 45 year agreement.

Call city council and county commission about the proposed MSD agreement !

Call city council and county commission about the proposed MSD agreement !

Many concerns still exist about the new city /county proposal for running the Sewer District. This agreement will last for 45 years so it is important to take the time to get it right!

  1. The requirements for board decision-making (supermajority) will stall the implementation of the consent decree and lead to more sewer backups into homes and businesses.
  2. There is no need to rush the deal and cut off public participation — there are options that also accommodate the need to reassure the bond market.
  3. Any other issues from the Sierra Club letter or your personal experience.

Please call (or email) the following and ask them to allow time to review and amend the agreement.

Commissioner Denise Driehaus 946-4406 denise.driehaus@hamilton-co.org
Commissioner Todd Portune 946-4401 Todd.Portune@hamilton-co.org
Council member Yvette Simpson 352-5260 yvette.simpson@cincinnati-oh.gov
Council member PG Sittenfeld 352-5270 pg.Sittenfeld@cincinnati-oh.gov
Council member Chris Seelbach 352-5210 Chris.Seelbach@cincinnati-oh.gov
Council member Charles Winburn 352-5354 charlie.winburn@cincinnati-oh.gov
Council member Wendell Young 352-3466 wendell.young@cincinnati-oh.gov
Council member Chris Smitherman 352-3464 christopher.smitherman@cincinnati-oh.gov
Council member Kevin Flynn 352-4550 Kevin.flyn@cincinnati-oh.gov

Check out Sierra Club’s  letter about the MSD commitment letter. 2017-08-07 Sierra Club and M. Wall Review of Proposed MSD Agreement

See the City and County Commitment Letter –>1013-Notice-of-Filing-Letter.pdf for their rough outline of the 45 year deal.  See what Sierra Club thinks of the deal–>   Deep Flaws in Sewer Deal Require Your Help at Monday Evening Meeting

Michael Miller wins seat Hamilton County Soil and Water District Supervisor Board

Michael C. Miller, Professor Emeritus from Biological Sciences at the University of Cincinnati, has been elected to the Hamilton County Soil and Water District Supervisor Board !
Thanks to all the Sierra Club members and friends who voted to elect Dr Miller.

from Mike Miller “I have never won an election of any kind. Because of your help and that of your membership we received the most votes ever for this volunteer office. I owe you and your members a great debt of thanks. Sincerely, Michael”

Past Plastic meet up Oct 17, 2017 6:30 PM

 

Hi all, We’re meeting Oct 17 at 6:30 at 2330 Victory Parkway, 4th floor across from elevators, Cincinnati, Oh 45206 to:

Get to know each other

Present the plan for the Oct 25 event releasing our disposable plastic bag proposal –

Come with ideas and reusable bags you no longer need; old t-shirts would be great too (to make into resuable bags).

Join us and bring a friend. Email nathanalley@limestoneadvocates.org if you have questions.

Sierra Club past plastic team

We hope to see you there!

 

 

NOPE Update by Nathan Alley

Beginning announcement at the June 5, 2017 Innings

NOPE Update by Nathan Alley

Nathan Alley is Transportation Policy Coordinator for the Ohio Sierra Club.

As an attorney, he has had extensive experience with federal and state environmental laws. and has worked on issues relating to coastal preservation, oil and gas development, clean water and sustainable agriculture. 

About NOPE!:  NOPE! (Neighbors Opposing Pipeline Extension) is a coalition of concerned citizens from over 14 Hamilton County communities affected by Duke’s proposed pipeline.  The mission of the organization is to ensure that any necessary natural gas infrastructure is installed in a way that is safe and responsible, away from densely populated areas.  For more information, visit www.NOPEcincy.org

Nathan will give us an update on NOPE activities, especially since there is an upcoming hearing with the Ohio Power Siting Board on

June 15, 2017. 

The local public hearing is scheduled:

June 15, 2017 from 3 p.m. to  8 p.m.

University of Cincinnati-Blue Ash

Muntz Hall, Room 119

9555 Plainfield Road, Blue Ash, Ohio 45236 

fighting Scott Pruitt to head EPA

Four republicans who might vote against Pruitt include
Cory Gardner, Colorado 202-224-5941
Lindsey Graham, South Carolina, 202-224-5972
Lamar Alexander, Tennessee, 202-224-4944
Susan Collins, Maine, 202-224-2523
Please call them and especially encourage anyone you know who lives in these states to call them. Thanks!!

According to the Washington Post, 2/4/17, some groups are targeting the Democrats from the reddest states in order to interfere with opposition to Scott Pruitt, as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Mr. Pruitt has a record of suing the EPA and working closely with the big oil companies. American Rising Squared is a trump allied organization that is planning TV ads to pressure the following democratic senators:

Joe Donnelly (Indiana) 202-224-4814
Claire McCaskill (Missouri) 202-224-6154
John Tester (Montana) 202-224-2644
Heidi Heitkamp (ND) 202-224-2043
Joe Manchin III (WV) 202-224-3954

To combat this pressure it would be advisable for concerned citizens to call these senators and ask them to vote against Scott Pruitt for Administrator of the EPA. In addition, please call senators in your own state. If you know anyone residing in the above states, please contact them concerning this issue. Thanks!

What is next for the Tremont City Barrel Fill Landfill ?

On December 6, 2016 I received an email from Marilyn Welker a volunteer for the non profit group, People For Safe Water. Some of her work over the past two years has centered on the Tremont City Barrel Fill Landfill that is located just three and one half miles northwest of Springfield Ohio on State Route 68 at the Tremont City Transfer Waste Facility. It occupies 8.5 acres of a larger 80 acre property there at 3112 Snyder-Domer Rd. German Twp. Ohio 45502, according to EPA Superfund and German Twp. The landfill is within area near the Greater Miami Sole Source Aquifer and the Springfield Wellfield that has received attention from People for Safe Water, OEPA and residents due to the disposal of 51,500 barrels totaling some 300,000 gallons of industrial waste dumped there from 1976 to 1979. In 1980, a 10 to 17 ft. deep top layer of soil was deposited over the area considered toxic. EPA does not consider the landfill to be worthy of Superfund designation for cleanup but has asked the State of Ohio to agree to propose and begin the process for EPA Superfund money.

In recent news, US EPA Region 5 contracted with Tetra Tech to evaluate possible permanent removal of the 51,500 barrels of waste there. Tetra Tech concluded that “…The available information was insufficient for this type of ranking and consequently provided no means to deem one hazardous waste solid         than another.” In response to EPA’s request “to identify a type of waste that was likely more hazardous and solid, whose removal may be beneficial ‘still bottoms’ are one such waste.” Still bottoms are residues from distillation processes such as oil refining and solvent recycling which typically contain volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOC’s). “In summary, there is insufficient information to identify drummed waste solids that pose the greatest threat. However removal of still bottoms would reduce the quantity of hazardous waste on site.” according to the report from Tetra Tech.

Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler discussed this report with Ohio legislators Rep. Kyle Koehler (R-District 79), Sen. Bob Hackett (R-District 10) and Rep. Bill Dean (R- District 74). Director Butler asked for a response from citizens and community leaders. The People for Safe Water responded in a letter to Director Butler on November 21, 2016 after speaking with community leaders and consultants. The letter affirms the commitment from EPA Region 5 to remove the “worst of the worst”.  The letter suggests “…remove a subset of ‘the worst of the worst’ barrels whose chemicals are both highly toxic and highly           mobile. Highly mobile meaning waste that travels through sand, gravel and soil quickly. Also, the letter recommends the support and stabilization of solids that are to remain at the site and will be reburied.

In the coming weeks, Director Craig Butler will meet with citizens and local leaders. The People for Safe Water has worked to seek common ground for an “enhanced cleanup plan”. Their approach to the Tremont City Barrel Fill landfill issue is aligned with economic benefit to the people of Tremont City and their health and safety. When I discussed this matter with Virginia Narsete, Community Involvement Coordinator at US EPA in October 2015, I was directed to the Clark County Combined Health District Commissioner Charlie Patterson for answers to the health concerns from citizens affected by the waste at the Tremont City Waste Transfer Facility. The People for Safe Water have also collaborated with the Sierra Club Miami Group and Ohio Citizen Action in Dayton with legal actions to oppose the Source Water Protection Plan, Ordinance 53, and a Memorandum of Understanding with OEPA from 1985 in Dayton Ohio on July 29, 2015. The material in this post online to miamigroup,org is from Marilyn Welker, People for Safe Water at mwelker@ctcn.net

Scott Bushbaum – Sierra Club Miami Group Executive Committee / Sierra Club Ohio Chapter Executive Committee / “Dayton Connections”

 

MSD two phase consent decree approach and status Dec 2016

Under the consent decree MSD was required to create a Long Term Control Plan (originally required in 1990’s) by June 2006. MSD spent two years creating its “Wet Weather Improvement Plan” (WWIP) which is essentially the Long Term Control Plan.  The 2006 WWIP is a 24 volume (3 ring binders) which may still be available from MSD.

Over the next 3 years USEPA and MSD (Cincinnati and Hamilton County) negotiated the contents of the LTCP. Finally in 2008,  USEPA declined to approve the 2006 plan.  In 2009 USEPA agreed to a two phase approach and modifications to the consent decree.  

Phase I included a Partial Remedy for the Lower Mill Creek and other projects. the full list is in attachment 1a and 1b of the 2009 WWIP.

Attachment 2 contained a list of phase II projects.  The final list of phase II projects is due June 2017 per the global consent decree.

However, in 2013, the 2009 WWIP was modified in agreement with USEPA.

And more (“minor”) modifications were made in 2015.

At the MSD breakfast in October 2016, Gerald Checco stated public meetings would be held on Phase II in the spring of 2017, before submission to USEPA in June.

 

 

 

MSD 2017 rate increase, capital and operating budget hearings

Hamilton County has announced public hearings on the rates, operating budget and capital budget.

Here are dates and ways to comment:

The Hamilton County Commission has announced that it will conduct public hearings on the Metropolitan Sewer District  (MSD) of Greater Cincinnati’s 2017 – 2021 Capital Improvement Budget, Operating Budget for 2017 and consider a revised rate structure for MSD service charges and surcharges.

The hearings are scheduled for Wednesday December 7, 2016, at 11:30 am and Wednesday December 14, 2016, at 11:30 am, 138 East Court Street, Room 603, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202.

Comments can be made at the hearing or in writing to the Clerk of the Board, Jacqueline.Panioto@hamilton-co.org

Commissioners’ emails are dennis.deters@hamilton-co.org, chris.monzel@hamilton-co.org, Todd.Portune@hamilton-co.org

The files which MSD submitted to the county for the budgets and rates are here.   The MSD rate study is here: MSDGC-2016-Rate-Study-Draft-Final-Report_30SEP2016.pdf

The county monitor team and MSD have been working on the rates and budgets for almost 3 months now.  In September and October 2016, the commissioners passed several resolutions directing MSD and their staff to modify the rate structure or provide the necessary study/data to determine changes like stormwater runoff charges. But most of that work isn’t done and the most recent information is that MSD won’t have the billing system modified even by the end of the first quarter for the simplest changes.

So, we don’t know the how much the budget and rate documents have changed. The first rate increase documents indicated a 5.25 % increase; the rate study says 4.25%.  The county might be looking at 4%.  Muddying the waters further, the August 28 storm expected to total more than $20 million in damages, due to basement backups and sewer collapses. This impacted the MSD operating budget for 2016, probably reducing the amount of debt service paid.  The rate implications of that aren’t clear at all.

So despite the amount of information we have, it isn’t very clear, where this is headed.