Residents still waiting for sewer fix
In 2004, the residents of Mon-E-Bak were told they could anticipate the completion of a new septic system.
Six years later, not even the funding has been secured.
“I’m not real happy with it. I’m really not,” remarked Skidmore Hills resident Bobbie Kean, who is also affected by the failing systems.
“My toilet hasn’t flushed right in two and a half months because of the snow,” she explained. “I don’t look for it to function right until middle or late May,” she continued.
“It’s like walking into an outdoor port-a-potty,” said Mon-E-Bak resident, Robyn Watkins about the unavoidable odor which permeates the area.
Residents have, in the interest of cost, re-routed their septic systems to storm drains, which causes the odor, she added.
According to the Franklin Township Trustees Sept. 8, 2009 meeting minutes, Mon-E-Bak Farms was deemed “an area of great concern due to the large number and high density of failed on-lot home sewage treatment systems.”
Residents have been aware of the problem for years.
In 2001, the Franklin County Department of Sanitary Engineers created a project, known as the Water Quality Partnership (WQP).
“The Water Quality Partnership program was created to identify areas of poor water quality due to failing home sewage treatment systems and provide public sanitary sewer to enhance the overall health to both the residents and the environment,” according to Franklin Township Trustee meeting minutes.
Under the Water Quality Partnership, several areas in the county were identified as needing attention, with the many of those areas located inside of Franklin Township.
Mon-E-Bak was high on the list of priorities since early on because the community uses wells. Since the septic systems aren’t functioning properly, the residents are potentially having to bathe and drink their own waste, according to Timothy Guyton, chairman of the Franklin Township Trustees.
In July 2008, 18 samples were taken from the outfalls of sewer pipes in Franklin Township.
Most of the outfalls had bacteria levels much higher than Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for household sewage systems.
To make matters worse, residents aren’t able to sell their homes because they would need to disclose that the ground is contaminated, explained Kean.
In addition, residents are still paying property taxes on homes that now have essentially no market value because of the contamination.
Dave O’Neil, director of communications at the Franklin County Auditor’s office, said that prior to being contacted by the Westside Messenger, the office was unaware of the issues in Mon-E-Bak.
“We certainly want to be proactive in the situation,” said O’Neil.
O’Neil said that Auditor Clarence Mingo and a chief real estate analyst will be notified of the issue and a “team of experts” will be organized to help the residents.
Director of the Franklin County Sanitary Engineers Department, Stephen Renner, said the “county is very committed.”
“Mon-E-Bak specifically is our number one priority. It’s next in line,” he continued.
Residents such as Kean are skeptical.
“Why is it taking so long to get started?” she asked. “Where is the money?”
Last year the sanitary engineer’s office applied for an Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC) grant but was denied, they were told, because other projects were higher priority, said Renner.
“We’ve not exhausted all funding options,” he said.
Renner stated he could not share publicly what other grants and loans they are applying for, but said that he would be able to say by March or April.
He added that the funding may end up being a combination of grants and loans, but that he’d like to exhaust all grant opportunities before applying for loans.
The estimated cost of re-sewering the Mon-E-Bak community is $4.2 million, he said.
If funding is approved, Renner anticipates sewer construction in Mon-E-Bak would begin in August, but that time frame is based on external factors. The project is estimated to take one year.
Initially, because of the size and scope of the problem it was thought the project would be broken up into pieces, said Guyton.
Renner explained that would not be the course of action now.
“If you try to go in piecemeal, you may not be able to get it done in a reasonable amount of time or complete the project,” said Renner.
It is “best for the residents” if it is done all at once, he said.
Renner added Mon-E-Bak would not be the only area in Franklin Township addressed.
Pleasant View Acres, Ponderosa Estates, Skidmore Hills and a variety of homes that are non-subdivision related will also be undertaken once funding is secured.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also become involved in the issues in Franklin Township.
An MS-4 permit was issued to Franklin County, explained Harry Kallitolitis of the EPA.
An MS-4 permit, explained Sheree Gossett-Johnson of the EPA, requires the county to provide public notification and education to residents that there is a sanitary problem in the storm sewers. It also requires the storm sewers be sampled in all types of weather for pollutants that are indicative of a storm water problem and then rank the severity of the problem, she continued.
Mon-E-Bak Farms was deemed the most critical, she added.
Franklin County has been in compliance and they “did a very good job,” said Gossett-Johnson.