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Akron withdraws from sewer plan to enter into alternate

12/19/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Akron officials announced Dec. 17 they are withdrawing the city’s submission of a plan to deal with combined sewer overflows (CSO) and will instead work to take part in an alternate opportunity to more affordably deal with the issue.

The Updated Long Term Control Plan (LTCP) has been pending in the federal district court for more than two years. During that time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed changing the methodology to allow every city, even those under consent decree, an opportunity to develop and enter into an Integrated Plan, which would allow more options to cities, including using “green solutions” with rates more affordable to ratepayers.

Since 1993, the city has been working to find an acceptable and cost-effective way to deal with CSOs. In 2002, Mayor Don Plusquellic introduced a plan to address the issue, but at that time the U.S. EPA prevented the city from moving forward with it, according to city officials. In 2008, the city, U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA reached an agreement that was rejected by U.S. Federal Court Judge John Adams.

In November 2011, the city, U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA submitted to Adams an agreed-upon Updated LTCP. After two years, the Consent Decree is still pending before the judge, with no guarantee that it will be approved, city officials said this week.

“In light of the drastic escalation of the program costs, estimated to be $1.4 billion, the lack of certainty as to whether or not the Updated LTCP will be entered by the court, and the fact that the U.S. EPA has expressed publicly a commitment to evaluate the financial burden on cities, I have decided that Akron can no longer proceed to build large capital construction projects without first participating in an Integrated Plan and developing a new, updated affordability analysis,” Plusquellic said.

Officials added the city has already moved forward with its LTCP and has since completed several projects, met milestones, progressed with advanced planning activities and implemented Capacity, Management, Operation and Maintenance (CMOM) activities on a continuing basis, all at an expense to the city.

Plusquellic met with officials from the U.S. EPA and the Department of Justice Dec. 13 to discuss the escalation in the cost to implement the projects in Akron’s Updated LTCP. To construct these projects at the level of control the EPA and Adams demand would impose a tremendous burden on the citizens of Akron who must ultimately pay for the projects, Plusquellic said. The projected cost to construct the projects has increased from $370 million in 2002 to $1.4 billion today, according to city officials. The mayor said during the meeting he expressed Akron’s desire to participate in the Integrated Planning Process that the EPA has offered to all cities. Akron is committed to working with the U.S. EPA to develop an Integrated Plan and to prepare a new, updated affordability analysis, he added.

“We think that Akron citizens deserve the same considerations regarding the cost-saving mechanisms that the U.S. EPA has publically embraced,” he said. “In the meantime, we will work with the U.S. EPA to continue working on agreed upon projects to improve CSO control in Akron.”

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