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Two Plans Still Clogging The Pipeline For Sewer District Project

Sarah Ramsey
Time is running out for Cincinnati's Metropolitan Sewer District to submit a plan for the next stage of a major project.

Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) has to submit a Phase Two plan for consent decree work by Saturday, but the two organizations that own and operate the utility are still negotiating over what to submit.

Cincinnati, which still runs MSD under a soon-to-expire 1968 agreement, has a 10-year plan for diverting storm water from the sewer system, while Hamilton County, which owns the utility and will operate it if a 2017 arrangement takes effect, has a five-year plan.

Commission President Todd Portune says since the county is the owner, its plan should be the only one. "We have so many issues with the city that we're working with them on that relate to MSD that we need to continue to maintain a posture of being the good faith operator, of being above board, of taking the high ground."

The county administrator says the two sides are still negotiating and there should be a filing ready to go Friday. Portune says it should be the county's, but if there's two, he says "we'll deal with that."

He says the county's proposal protects ratepayers. "It is one that allows us to take advantage of new developments that we've been fighting for in Washington D.C. that may come to fruition this year that will help to save as much as a billion dollars on the cost of consent decree work," he says, referring to federal legislation that could give MSD more flexibility in complying with the consent decree. Congress has not approved the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act.

Portune says the county's proposal could mean no increase in sewer rates, or as much as three percent over five years. "We know from information that we've received from the city, their proposal may cause rates to go up as high as 29 percent. (That's) another reason why there needs to be one filing," he says.

The Metropolitan Sewer District did not respond to a request for comment.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.