MOUNT VERNON — The county board of commissioners took another step closer to solving the county’s problem of aging septic systems Thursday by designating Bladensburg and Millwood to be the first two communities to have small, self-contained wastewater treatment facilities installed. Aging systems have not been able to keep up with growing wastewater demands and stricter environmental codes.
The hamlet project began in late 2006. Design work has been done by ADR and Associates of Newark, which has planned systems for several communities, including Amity, Bladensburg, Brandon, Jelloway, Millwood, Mount Liberty and Rich Hill. Jeffery Carr from ADR met with the commissioners Thursday for a review session. They were joined by consultant Amy Schocken, who helps the county coordinate Community Development Block Grant applications.
Carr said all of the projects were almost ready to go, awaiting only permits to install, which are expected to be approved within weeks. No federal stimulus money was awarded to help with these projects, which are required by Environmental Protection Agency regulations and by the gradual failure of homeowners’ private systems, which is already beginning to happen. It will not be known until fall whether each community will get $100,000 in assistance from federal “594” funds, which the commissioners applied for through Sen. George Voinovich and Rep. Zack Space.
Carr suggested applying for the maximum amount awarded by CDBG for wastewater projects, which is $1 million. This could be split equally between Bladensburg and Millwood, which are the two most expensive projects. Both are in need of being done as soon as possible. Carr estimated the cost of the system at Bladensburg to be $1,446,240; Millwood is expected to cost nearly as much, at $1,289,462.
At this point, the cost for all of the hamlets is projected at $5,772,463. Applications for this funding open on July 1. Commissioner Allen Stockberger instructed everyone to prepare to submit their application on the first day.
Another $100,000 in CDBG money could come from the county’s annual Formula Grant. Schocken explained that this money could also be used for a number of projects which have applied for grant assistance, including paving the Memorial Park parking lot in Danville, replacing the Richards Street bridge in Danville, continuing sidewalks to East Knox High School in Howard, paving Carter and Thatcher streets in Mount Liberty, paving the parking lot of the Freedom Center, or playground equipment and fencing in Gann. The commissioners decided to apply for the $100,000 to go the hamlets project first. If that is denied, they will submit later in the year for the money to go to other projects.
Funds not covered by grants are expected be loaned to the county from the Division of Environmental Financial Assistance. Although some residents of the hamlets have expressed reservations to the approximately $50 per month bill that sewer service will create, Carr said most realize that with failing septic tanks and insufficient space to put in new ones, the long-term solution will be worth it. The DEFA debts could potentially be forgiven at some point if more federal stimulus money is distributed.
The commissioners decided the top two priorities were Bladensburg and Millwood. Commissioner Robert Wise said he would consider Millwood the first priority due to its central location at crossroads, and its commercial interests. Commissioner Teresa Bemiller pointed out Bladensburg had a larger population. Stockberger said he was inclined to lean toward doing Bladensburg first because Wapatomika Creek carries the heaviest load of pollution of any major waterway in the county. They agreed the third and fourth priorities would be Mount Liberty and Amity, respectively.
The time frame for the project is likely to be six years. If funding support fails to come through, it could push the ending date for the project past 2014.