July 11, 2019, the Ombudsman, appointed by the Court to assist residents and businesses with the Sewer Backup Program, sent the following letter to the MSD, city and Hamilton County Administration. The Ombudsman’s letter agrees with the Sierra Club testimony to City Council on June 25, 2019, also below. Letter to Diana Christy 071119
Sierra Club testimony presented by Dave Altman, AltmanNewman, LPA. 2019-06-25 Altman statement Major Projects Committee
We urge the city and county to do an independent investigation of the failure of the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) 125 MSD project which collapsed, flooding homes and other property in Northside.
The following is our previous statement on CSO 125 damage in Northside.
Sierra Club Statement on Northside Sewer Damages
We understand that inaccurate information has been distributed in Northside about the Metropolitan Sewer District’s (MSD) Sewer Backup Program (SBU) claims process and your rights under the federal Consent Decree.
Sierra Club is extremely disturbed by MSD’s actions in this situation. MSD knew that its stormwater basins failed, yet it is telling people that the SBU Program does not apply to them, and declined cleanups and responsibility, when MSD should have been dispatching emergency crews to immediately cleanup the damage, providing information about the SBU Program to residents and businesses and including providing Northside people with Sewer Backup claims forms. Most damage is inside homes and the SBU program most definitely applies. Some damage, like cars outside of structures being destroyed, may need to be documented using MSD’s Damage Claim Form. MSD has given out incorrect and confusing information and failed to tell people their rights under the federal Court established SBU Program.
Instead of taking immediate responsibility and cleaning up people’s property, MSD decided to take weeks to investigate exactly how MSD created the extensive damages to Northside, leaving people for at least five days to clean up on their own.
How can anyone trust MSD with the incredible misstatements about their responsibility and misrepresentations of the Court-ordered program?
To understand Sierra Club’s concern, it is important to understand Sierra Club’s efforts to alert the federal Court to MSD’s long standing record of mismanagement. This record needs to be recognized and deep changes need to be made at the MSD. The record has been documented by
- the city’s own audit in 2014,
- the State of Ohio’s Fraud Examination Report,
- the County Prosecutor’s launch of an investigation in 2019,
- the Cincinnati Enquirer’s finding in 2016,
- Hamilton County’s complaints in court filings,
- chronic delays in projects,
- failure to prevent basement backups for years and years, despite repeated sewage backups,
- failure to comply with Consent Decree deadlines including submitting a Phase 2 plan,
- and failing to complete over $225,000,000 of projects by the court ordered deadline of Dec 31, 2018 (which includes the 2 failed basins in Northside).
Sierra Club has asked Judge Barrett to appoint a Special Master to oversee the implementation of the Consent Decree. We have also asked City Council for an independent review of the Northside flooding (not conducted by the City or the County, but an independent firm).
The SBU Program was established under a federal Consent Decree correct long standing improper conduct by the MSD, Cincinnati and Hamilton County, causing violations of the Clean Water Act.
Sierra Club, as intervenors in this lawsuit, brought the issue of sewage overflows from MSD entering basements and property to the attention of the Judge who ordered the program (called Water in Basement in the Consent Decree and its exhibits.)
Testimony from our Attorney Dave Altman of AltmanNewman LPA., on the Sewer Backup Program and the flooding in Northside was provided to City Council on June 25, 2019. This testimony, including information from the consent decree and case law is on Sierra Club’s website at https://miamigroup.org/sbu-northside/
June 28, 2019