Friday, July 19, 2002

Utility costs less than sanitation

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WILDER — Homeowners will pay less quarterly for a new storm water management utility charge than they do for sanitation, but the exact amount is not set.

        The proposed regional storm water utility aims to bring 31 Northern Kentucky cities into compliance with the federal Clean Water Act by March 2003. A 57-page plan was presented at sanitation district meeting earlier this week.

        Sanitation District No. 1 currently handles the region's sewer needs. General Manager Jeff Eger said that the 31 Northern Kentucky cities have asked the district to help them with the regulations.

        “To meet the unfunded federal mandate of the Clean Water Act, they want to give that responsibility to us — like they did the sanitation,” Mr. Eger said.

        If local cities and counties don't demonstrate that they have an adequate storm water management plan in place by March 2003 to clean up water, “They could be fined $27,500 per day,” said John Lyons, the project manager for the Sanitation District.

        A storm water management plan that meets federal regulations involves six main controls outlined by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

        The controls include pollution prevention, illicit discharge detection and elimination, control of construction site runoff and post-construction storm water management.

        The draft plan cost about $6 million to produce and included a massive Global Positioning System (satellite) survey of the area.

        “There was no map of the storm system,” Mr. Lyons said.

        The plan must be reviewed and approved by the Kentucky Division of Water and then adopted by the 31 city commissions and Boone, Campbell and Kenton county commissions.

        At the public meeting, attendees were mostly from stakeholder groups. “We sent invitations out to these people who have participated in focus groups in the past: developers, municipalities, city and county officials and environmental groups,” said Peggy A. Ziegler, public information manager for the Sanitation District No.1.

        Northern Kentucky University, Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Apartment Association, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce attended.

        Businesses and other nonresidential property owners would pay their storm water utility charge based on the amount of “impervious surface” — generally, “paved area” — at their facilities. Or they can opt to provide proactive storm water management in their initial development plan and get a credit.

        The Northern Kentucky region is within Phase II of the federal plan. Larger metropolitan cities, including Louisville, were part of the earlier Phase I.

        Some large Phase I cities have not met the federal standards for having a plan in place and are paying for it, the local Sanitation District officials said.

        In Los Angeles, the inability to produce an adequate plan has resulted in even stricter requirements about floating trash in storm water, Mr. Eger said.

        Akron has just been placed under a federal consent decree for its inability to comply with Phase I regulations and Atlantafaces an additional $350 million expenditure in storm water controls, he said.

        The Northern Kentucky regional plan, still in draft form, does not yet have a price tag, the Sanitation District officials said.

        But for Northern Kentucky, which includes the Licking River watershed and is part of the 300,000-square-mile Ohio River watershed, the regional approach is right, Mr. Lyons said.

        “Storm water obviously doesn't follow political jurisdictions,” the project manager said.


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- Utility costs less than sanitation