News Briefs: Stormwater Fees Head to Supreme Court, Debate Continues

In this week's news, a stormwater fee case heads to the Ohio State Court and a manhole vandalism leads to big problems in Hawaii.
News Briefs: Stormwater Fees Head to Supreme Court, Debate Continues

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On Sept. 9, the Ohio Supreme Court will hear arguments in a four-year battle over stormwater fees and the management of a regional stormwater program. The case involves a group of suburbs that have challenged whether the Northeast Ohio Regional District has the authority to collect the fees. Although the specifics address the Greater Cleveland area, the court’s decision could have broader interest.

Initially, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on two points: First, is the sewer district legally authorized to manage stormwater that is not combined with sewage and to impose a charge for that purpose? And secondly, does the authority to operate stormwater handling facilities authorize the district to create a regional stormwater program including imposing appropriate charges to operate that program?

The fees are expected to generate $35 million per year, which would be used to pay for stormwater projects. The eight contesting communities have called the fees an unvoted tax.

The case has drawn opinions from various groups throughout the state, including real estate organizations, wastewater agencies, clean water agencies and commercial property owners.


Vandalism Alert: Manhole Mess Causes Sewer Spill

City crews in Palolo, Hawaii, encountered a mess this past week when responding to a blocked sewer line that caused about 40,000 gallons of sewage to overflow into the Palolo Stream. Crews discovered debris, a tricycle and rocks the diameter of the pipe, which someone had intentionally tossed down the manhole.

“There’s actually rocks the size of the diameter of the pipe, which is about 15 inches,” says Lori Kahikina, the environmental services director, in a Hawaii News report. “Honestly, if it’s boulders they’re talking about or other materials in there, it’s going to be very difficult other than busting in there and pulling it out.”

The Hawaii Times reported that crews were assigned to each side of the blockage, with one crew vacuuming and one crew using handheld equipment to remove debris.

Source: Hawaii News Now

City Beefs Up Public Works Salaries

The Jackson, Miss., City Council recently voted to raise the pay level of its public works director to $150,000, which tops the mayor’s salary. City officials justify the salary, pointing to the high amount of responsibility placed on a public works head to handle infrastructure woes.

Mayor Tony Yarber said the city’s pressing infrastructure and water and sewer problems — which are estimated to cost some $1 billion — have forced them to think outside the box when recruiting for the public works position. At the same meeting, the Council approved Kishia Powell as the city’s first female head of the department.

Yarber and his staff will also be reviewing city employee salaries to address concerns with such a high salaried department head position.

Source: Clarion Ledger 

San Francisco Bay Settlement Focuses on Sewage Overflows

Six East Bay cities and the East Bay Municipal Utility District have reached an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to upgrade sewer pipes in an effort to prevent sewage overflows and protect the San Francisco Bay.

The settlement, which will include $1.5 billion in repairs and upgrades over the next 21 years, resolves a 2009 lawsuit brought by the EPA, the state Water Resources Control Board and others.

“For many years, the health of San Francisco Bay has been imperiled by ongoing pollution, including enormous discharges of raw and partially treated sewage from communities in the Easy Bay,” says Jaren Blumenfield, an EPA regional administrator in a Contra Costa Times article.

As part of the settlement, the cities and water district will also pay $1.5 million in civic penalties. The settlement also continues the requirement for homeowners to inspect and upgrade private sewer laterals when selling property or performing more than $100,000 in remodels.

Source: Contra Costa Times  


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