Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Sewage solution proposed

MSD would spend $37M, requiring a rate hike

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Metropolitan Sewer District proposed a solution to basement sewage flooding Monday. The cost is $37 million to fix more than 1,000 of the most flood-prone homes in Hamilton County.

The work would likely require a rate increase of 4 percent for all county property owners, MSD Director Pat Karney said. That's on top of a 5 percent increase MSD already planned for 2004. The average homeowner pays $320 a year.

A majority of commissioners agreed the county needs to tackle the problem. A wet spring and summer have increased problems with basement flooding, particularly in older neighborhoods, where sewers up to 100 years old carry both raw sewage and rain runoff. When too much stormwater gets in these so-called combined sewer lines, it can back up through basement drains in low-lying areas.

"That's a terribly, terribly unsanitary thing for people to have to put up with," Commissioner Phil Heimlich said.

Karney said a new technology could allow MSD to fix basement flooding for about $35,000 per house, or $37 million total, in five years. A small pump would be installed in each home's yard or basement to remove wastewater generated by basement toilets, washing machines and sinks. The pump would eliminate direct connections between the basement and the sewer system, thus not giving sewage a way to back up into the home.

MSD hopes to pilot the new technology at Jay Hicks' Cheviot home, which often floods thanks to a 30-inch sewer main that runs underneath it. "I see that it's a Band-Aid, but quite honestly it's one I'm going to have to do if you guys don't do it," Hicks said.

The proposal does nothing to reduce the amount of sewage or increase the system's capacity, Portune noted. Excess sewage will simply overflow into streets instead of basements, he said.


E-mail candrews@enquirer.com

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