A sense of nervousness as first deadline for homeowner sewer separations approaches

 

By NICOLE HENNESSY

AVON LAKE – The potential of $56,000 a day in EPA fines if Avon Lake’s sewers are not completely separated by 2020 is enough to make anyone nervous. And as the first deadline approaches for homeowners to separate their sanitary and storm sewers, some officials are feeling that nervousness.

Intended to help alleviate basement flooding and comply with an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandate to end the discharge of raw sewage into Lake Erie, Avon Lake Regional Water (ALRW), in cooperation with the city of Avon Lake, implemented a requirement that residents must not have any clean water sources entering their sanitary laterals by February 2018 through the end of June 2019, depending on where a home is located.

As homeowners with homes built previous to 1972 take on their projects, the city continues its own massive undertaking.

A little over 1,200 homeowners still need to separate. Of this group, about 800 must do so by the February 2018 deadline.

There are about 550 of the people slated for the first round of separations that still haven’t contacted ALRW for a free inspection. About 350 of those are believed to need separations.

“To date, there have been over 1,000 homes that have separated their laterals or have done something on their property to push stormwater, for instance, into their backyard, so they’re not putting stormwater into the sanitary sewers anymore,” said ALRW Chief Utilities Executive Todd Danielson.

Still, Councilman John Shondel, who sits on the sewer committee, says he has a “sense of frustration” that many homeowners have yet to respond, something he attributes to new residents who may be unaware of the work that must be done and young people who may not be receiving paper bills containing notices.

Concerned that the city will have to step in to do the work on behalf of homeowners at a much higher cost that would be assessed to them, fine residents or even take them to court or interrupt water services, Shondel says he wants to ensure enough is being done to get people to comply now before these are the choices that are left.

“The city doesn’t want to become the bad guy,” Councilwoman Jennifer Fenderbosch, who has remained very involved in this process, stated.

Worried that some are behind schedule, she cautiously stated, “I would prefer that there would be more residents involved now.”

“The rush is on.”

Danielson said the utility has been placing door hangers notifying people that even if work does not need to be completed, they must get an inspection done or prove their laterals are separated, so that the city can take them off the list.

He also said more letters will be going out to inform homeowners that the work must be completed by deadline.

“We are grateful to those who have separated. We are here to help if people have concerns or feel a little overwhelmed. Call us,” said Danielson.

“If you come into our office, we can talk to you, or we can have a person come out to your house. This is a community effort in that each individual house might not contribute a lot of water by itself, but as you add up 1,200 more homes that need to separate, that’s a lot of water, and it’s a lot of potential for basement backups and…pollution in Lake Erie.”

SIDE BAR box: To schedule a free inspection, contact ALRW at 440-933-6226. For those who need to separate laterals, there are currently incentives in place, including 10-year low-interest loans and credits for work completed.

 

 


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