Statement from City of Marietta Assistant Safety-Service Director Bill Dauber Regarding OEPA Action

The City of Marietta supports the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s (OEPA) decision to refer the stalled Washington County Sewer Project to the Ohio Attorney General for enforcement. The expansion of the City’s wastewater treatment plant will allow residents in Devola, Oak Grove, and Reno currently using septic systems or illegal dry wells to receive sewer services from the County. The project will lower the currently dangerous levels of sewage contaminants in groundwater by replacing faulty septic systems and eliminating illegal dry wells.

While this is a controversial project for some, it must be done. Our number one concern is protecting the health and safety of each and every resident of Washington County, from the water we all drink to the wastewater we must collect and treat. That’s why the Washington County Commissioners need to move forward and connect Devola and Oak Grove citizens to the City’s sanitary sewer system.

The Washington County Commissioners have dragged their feet on this much-needed improvement project for too many years, putting residents’ physical and financial wellbeing at risk. And, the Health Commissioner continues to disseminate misinformation about pollution in our groundwater. The facts are:

  • The Ohio EPA has done two studies of the groundwater around Devola, Oak Grove and Reno in 2010 and again in 2016 at the request of the County Commissioners. Both times the studies found high levels of nitrates directly caused by faulty septic systems in the area. High nitrate levels mean sewage is in the water.
  • The nitrates contaminating our groundwater are coming from septic systems and illegal dry wells in Washington County. The OEPA’s test drillings show that the nitrate level in groundwater gets lower near farms. The nitrate level gets higher near homes with septic. By comparing chlorine levels in the same area, OEPA confirmed that the high nitrates were not caused by agricultural run-off.
  • Devola’s tap water is better right now because a reverse osmosis treatment system was installed by the Putnam Community Water Corporation to filter out nitrates and other pollutants, but that does not address groundwater. Contaminants from sewage are still getting into our groundwater and polluting it. The County Commissioners need to address this problem at the source.
  • In addition to failing septic systems, there are more than 900 illegal dry wells in the Devola, Oak Grove, and Reno that must be removed. It’s against Ohio law for homes and businesses to discharge wastewater into a dry well.
  • The County signed a 40-year contract with the City in 2011 that would solve these problems by connecting Devola and Oak Grove to the City’s sewer system. Now, the County is refusing to honor the contract.
  • In 2012, the OEPA ordered the County Commissioners to move forward with this sewer project. The County was eligible for a $400,000.00 grant and a $1,000,000.00 zero-percent interest loan that the County Commissioners turned down. The cost savings from these funding sources would have been passed on.  Not only is the County refusing to meet its contractual commitment to the City, but it’s also refusing to comply with the OEPA’s orders.

The City of Marietta wants the citizens of Marietta and Washington County to know and understand the facts surrounding this issue and the environmental and financial impact of the actions and inactions of the County Commissioners. The City of Marietta intends to fully cooperate with the Attorney General’s office in every way it can as it initiates proceedings to enforce this important and necessary project.