Monday, June 30, 2008

Wastewater Treatment Plant Issues

 Sanitation is dignity! The motto of an exhibition sponsored by the German Toilet Organization, who have declared 2008 "International Year of Sanitation."  [Image from the NYTimes' "Dot Earth" blog entry for March 20, 2008, by Andrew Revkin, entitled, "2.6 Billion with No Place to Go (to the Toilet)"]

Dear People: I will be holding my office hour today--12-1:00 (or so) at the Emporium.

While our agenda for our next meeting has not been finalized, we will have some information about the ongoing issues with our Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP). The YS News interviewed me about the WWTP last week, and I'd like to share what I said. The Village had been publicly informed that the plant was out of compliance due to lack of needed upgrades to our sewage-system's handling capacity, particularly during storms, because we get a lot of inflow of surface water.

All of our discussions of this matter have been public, most recently on Nov 19, 2007, when the matter was particularly raised by a villager, Vicki H. From then until our executive session at our last meeting, we didn't discuss it because we believed that we, as a Village, were were doing everything we possibly could to move forward on this issue. Before my time on the Council, the manager had already applied for a successful Issue 2 grant for a significant part of the plant upgrades, money that is scheduled to be released in the next year, and we had taken on an engineering firm, LJB Engineering, a top firm in Ohio for handling wastewater plants.

So Council was under the impression that we were on track with this serious issue. However, we have discovered this month that, in fact, our response to the EPA has not been adequate, and we could be subject to a substantial fine. We are now working very hard to rectify the situation. We have taken on an excellent environmental attorney--not to fight the EPA's concerns and assessments, but to help us work with the EPA to get us into compliance as soon as possible. That's our goal, and that's where our focus is: getting into compliance.

A Villager, I believe it was Chris R., said something key to me after this issue came up for discussion on Village Council at one of my first meetings. I know I won't get her words exactly right, but she said something like: other people and groups can work on economic development, artists can live here and make art, etc., but you are the ONLY ones who can work on things like keeping our sewage system and our water system, our infrastructure, safe and functioning.

I have been very aware of that responsibility this week, especially, and I thank all the villagers who help keep us aware of what our priorities are and should be--even the ones who are being critical. It's what we need.

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