The Devola Water Issue

An Investigation Into Who Benefits

Background:

For the last eight years Washington County (OH) Commissioners have been in a slow but sometimes hotly contested debate with the Marietta City council and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency regarding installation of a sewer system based on an obscure finding in 2009* of “elevated nitrate levels” in a county subdivision, Devola.

(*OEPA demands were founded based on this and this seen here: WashCC – DFFO 2012.)

In 2014, the county brought a new reverse osmosis water filtration plant online in the subdivision in the idea of compliance with OEPA demands. Unfortunately, the OEPA doesn’t consider this remedy to be in line with state statutes and compliance with Clean Water acts. Instead, they demand that the county install a brand new sewer system in Devola for just under 1000 residents, but reaching into the tens of millions of dollars in intallation of the infrastructure, not to mention the cost to homeowners to tie-in to the new system.

Of course to compound the whole ordeal, Marietta prematurely built a 30+ million dollar addition to their sewer treatment facility in the hopes that the county was going to tie in. This would not be so–not for wanton disregard for the law or political grandstanding, but the very finite issue of why all of this happened in the first place.

Prior to the current Washington county commissioners seats being filled, another Commission made promises they apparently intended for their successors to keep, without acknowledging residents in Devola, the county or even the city, and never answering the question as to where all this money was going to come from.

The city is quite Liberal and indeed found ways to bleed money from city taxes and various state and federal grants to pay for the treatment facility upgrades–but there was still cost to the taxpayer and they want their money!

The county is not fighting just the OEPA in their claims of damage to “surface waters,” which was never the original issue for compliance, but they are fighting a city who has monetary interests in a county that never gave the go ahead for building an addition to the sewer facility; but also the efficacy of a so-called “Intergovernmental Agreement” (IA) that the preceding county commissioners and Marietta city council signed, which would apparently hold Washington County in a legal limbo!

What is quite concerning considering the procession of Marietta in a legal suit against the county, one can wonder as to what payment the city may seek. You see, in the IA, not only is the county subdivision of Devola listed for the additional tie in to the sewer treatment facility, but also surrounding Oak Grove and Reno.

Long have these three bedroom communities served as a “safe haven” away from an increasingly abusive city government and additional taxes, though they still provide employees and tax monies for the city in the form of sales and income, as well as urban sprawl, bringing in new retail, hotel and restaurant sales to the area.

Washington County, by disabling the IA from proceeding in their fight with the OEPA’s seemingly ludicrous and “private property destroying” demands, it can only be asked whether the IA can be used against the county to annex those communities as some form of remuneration of breaking the IA contract. The IA has a clause in it regarding annexation not being a form of payment in return of the original sewer agreement–but what if that contract is broken and no longer applies?

Unfortunately, as with speaking to a former city government candidate, he said that this whole issue would be easily assuaged if the city were forthcoming in ripping the IA to shreds, seeing the facility upgrades as a cost to future growth, and therefore leaving the county to fight on the front of the state government, saying comply, comply, comply.

Needless to say, he was not elected.

The county is, in all essence fighting the good fight, basing their arguments in the Constitution and wanting to ensure private property rights as guaranteed in that most important historical document, but additionally focusing on the facts–using their own water sampling data–to refute the OEPA’s demands.

In all of the eight (8!) years that this juggling and throwing of politics has been going on, not one single death or sickness, epidemic or wildlife catastrophe has occurred. Neither has the OEPA proven how exactly elevated nitrate levels–which by county and OEPA statistics are going down!–are harming humans or the environment. The county’s Reverse Osmosis system, as costly as it was, has virtually eliminated upstream and lowered downstream, nitrate and other contaminant levels.

If water contaminants are the issue based on the idea that Devola and their many septic systems being north of the city leaching these into the city water supply, still holds very little weight. That is, unless the city isn’t treating their tap water correctly! Very few contaminants should be present in any of these water supplies if treatment is going on.

(Unfortunately high levels of heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, fluoride, chlorine and chloramines and various other things are still present because they’re intentionally put there or not filtered out by the water treatment facility as per federal and state “law”–but that’s another issue altogether–although it’s ironic putting deadly fluoride into the water, but the OEPA is concerned with decreasing nitrate levels. Hmm…)

So, we come around to ask that universal question of all questions: Qui bono?

Who benefits?

Now that IS the question.

COMING SOON!

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Header image “Reflections On The Muskingum” by Mike Tewkesberry via Flickr with a NoDerivs-Attribution 2.0 License from Creative Commons.
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