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Trade-off in works for sewage-plant mandate
Trade-off in works for sewage-plant mandate
By SUE REID
Solon City Council's public works committee approved a motion last week authorizing the director of the sewage-treatment plant to enter into a water-quality-trading program proposed by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
The proposed program will provide additional opportunities for the city to fulfill requirements of the plant's national pollutant discharge elimination system permit renewal when the treatment process cannot meet the daily limitations, plant director Paul Solanics told the committee. It will also partner Solon with surrounding communities in the Tinker's Creek watershed to restore the habitat and water quality there, he said.
The plant's elimination system renewal mandates that the city maintain compliance with the reduction of its final effluent phosphorous limit to 0.26 milligrams per liter of water in an effort to lower phosphorous levels in the Tinker's Creek watershed, Mr. Solanics said. There are two options for Solon to comply with this requirement, either through additional treatment or to participate in the water-quality-trading program.
Mr. Solanics said that meeting the daily requirements would require significant changes in Solon's treatment process. "We would have to change the process at the plant, which could cost upwards of $1 million," he said.
Instead, he said, he recommends participation in the program. "It's a win-win situation," Mr. Solanics said.
"Our recommendation is to use the trading program to buy down credits," he said.
Solon historically has been proactive in several targeted areas such as the elimination of septic tanks, stream-bank stabilizations and implementation of its storm-water management program, Mr. Solanics said.
"Many of these qualify for credits in the water-quality-trading program," he said. "Future projects can be planned within the guidelines of the program to assure that we meet the requirements of our NPDES permit and achieve the ultimate goal of restoring the integrity of the Tinker's Creek watershed."
William Zawiski, of the EPA, who was in attendance at the meeting, provided the committee with further details about the program. He said it will involve everyone from the watershed. Communities involved are Streetsboro, Twinsburg, Solon, Bedford, Bedford Heights and Aurora Shores.
"Solon is the only community that has not committed to take part in the program," Mr. Zawiski said. The goal of the program is the restoration of the biology of the stream, he said. "The biology standards is our goal."
He said that, in looking at the whole watershed, it is still a mystery as to what is going on in Tinker's Creek that is preventing the fish from recovering. They are having trouble feeding in the stream, because it is much more turbid, Mr. Zawiski said.
"We do have healthy small bass in the stream," he said. "That's a sign good things are happening and that not all is bad."
Mr. Zawiski also explained to the committee what the city can do for credit, such as putting in a rain garden.
"I don't know what I'm signing up for," Councilman William D. Mooney said. "Will we lose control of dollars being spent?"
Mr. Zawiski told Mr. Mooney the only commitment the EPA wants financially is the city's time. Mr. Sawiski said the trading program will be a minimum cost.
"Solon is already meeting the end target," Mr. Zawiski said. "We are looking for, at the long term, how do we fix this system. Phosphorous alone is not the only reason we have issues in the stream."
"I have no data in front of me to see what each of these options are going to cost," Mr. Mooney said.
"Every step we take on this is really a new footprint," Mr. Zawiski said.
Mr. Mooney said he would be in support of this program if it is something the city can opt out of when it chooses to do so.
Public Works Director James S. Stanek said that he and Mr. Solanics have evaluated this program in the short term.
"We have enough credits to cover us for several years," Mr. Stanek said. "That will give us time to evaluate other options.
"In two to three yeas, we will be in a much better position to evaluate where we are," Mr. Stanek said. "We have nothing to lose by participating in this."
Mr. Solanics said the city can gain credits as backup.
Councilman Richard A. Bell said he also would like the city to have the ability to opt out.
"I don't have a good sense in my mind as to what these numbers mean and what extra work we would have to do," Mr. Bell said. "It sounds OK right now but it also sounds like things could change. I don't like to make decisions like that. I like having good, hard facts."
Mr. Bell asked Mr. Solanics what the downside would be of participating in the program.
"There really isn't a downside in participation in the program, at least as I can see," Mr. Solanics said. "We can always opt out.
"Things could change," Mr. Solanics said. "If we don't meet the permits, we will be fined." The plant cannot meet those requirements now, he said. Participating in the program "is an opportunity for us to sit back and see how things progress.
"I would hate to invest all the money in doing changes in the plant's process and find out those limits are not meeting the EPA's expectations in turning around the stream quality," Mr. Solanics said. "You could be investing the money and it will not get you anywhere, and then have to come back and do something else."
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