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Consent Decree Regulators Mount Own Plan For Storm Sewer Overhaul

Bill Rinehart
Commissioners met in Forest Park, part of their promise to meet once a month in a different community.

The entities that oversee Hamilton County's sewer fix have cut the Gordian Knot that is the fight between the county and Cincinnati. The regulators are imposing their own version of Phase 2A of the consent decree, as the county and city try to win approval for their competing plans.

The U.S. EPA, Ohio EPA, and the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission have a $2 billion plan for the next stage of the storm sewer separation and renovation project. Hamilton County and Cincinnati went before a federal judge in 2018, each hoping to win approval of their Phase 2A visions.

Commissioners approved a five-year Phase 2A that would cost $616.4 million. Cincinnati backed a te 10-year plan at a cost of $1.01 billion.

Hamilton County Administrator Jeff Aluotto says the regulators are "cramming down" their version on the community. "This would be a 10-year, $1.97 billion plan, which over that time would raise rates by roughly 70%."

Aluotto points out ratepayers saw an increase of 8.5% each year between 2006 and 2015.

"Bottom line is the regulators' plan is, from our perspective, unaffordable for this community, it doesn't pay attention to the recently passed federal legislation promoting green infrastructure and integrated planning, and it violates the consent decree by ignoring considerations that are supposed to be included in the schedule development of a Phase 2," Aluotto says.

At a Thursday evening meeting in Forest Park, commissioners approved a resolution allowing the county's legal team to bring the matter to the attention of Judge Michael Barrett. It also means the county will contact elected leaders in the area, Columbus and Washington, and Metropolitan Sewer District customers, and build a coalition to oppose the regulators Phase 2A.

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.