Hamilton County and Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) officials are expected to meet in the next week to discuss ways to stop untreated sewage overflows from entering Muddy Creek in Green Township. Residents along the creek have been complaining about the issue for years. Their complaints include odors and even toilet paper hanging in trees along the creek.
The project to fix the Upper Muddy Creek interceptor problem has been on hold for more than a year, and federal regulators, under a consent decree, had wanted that work done by Dec. 31, 2019. The county and Cincinnati, which manages MSD, could face daily fines for missing that deadline.
The work is not done, and the county and MSD can't agree on how to fix it.
County officials want to do a temporary fix on "visible holes" in the existing sewer lines and manholes that are located in Muddy Creek. At the same time, MSD would be working on "detailed plans, specifications, and estimate of cost" for a permanent fix, which will involve a new sewer line and relocating it out of the creek.
MSD officials agree the pipe needs to be replaced and moved out of the creek, but they don't think it makes sense to do a "temporary" repair. They want to move to a permanent fix.
But the county says MSD's plan is too expensive and would only move the sewer overflows downstream from where they are happening now.
County Commission President Denise Driehaus said Thursday the meeting between the parties will be focused on "some of the inconsistencies" that she's heard about the project.
"We had a county engineer in here on Tuesday talking about how we could temporarily patch this pipe to keep the seepage from going into the creek and the backyards of some folks in the community," Driehaus said. "Not a long-term solution; just a temporary solution. But I think MSD disagrees with that analysis. And so I am hopeful that we can get some resolution fairly quickly."
Cincinnati Council Member Greg Landsman said last week he trusts the MSD engineers and their recommendations that a temporary fix won't work.
"If this is what they believe is the best - or in some cases, in this case - the only way to move forward, we have to do that," Landsman said. "If for some reason the county's able to offer up something that we have not taken up or considered, I want to be able to do that together and make sure that's out in the open."
Landsman had wanted his city council committee and the county commission to hold a joint meeting to discuss Muddy Creek and other MSD issues. But that session has not been scheduled.
Landsman has said his committee will have MSD on Tuesday's agenda.
The Muddy Creek project is the latest project causing tension between the county and city concerning MSD.
The county owns the sewer district and sets rates and budgets for the agency. The city manages the utility and claims ownership of the treatment facilities and pipes that it brought to the system when MSD was established in 1968.
The 1968 agreement expired in 2018, but a federal judge has ordered the city and county to continue the relationship until a replacement arrangement has been found.
So far that hasn't happened, and the contentious relationship between the two sides continues.