Council Approves Effluent Line Design After Ordinance Clarified

by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
Frances Jackson
Frances Jackson
file photo

Huntington’s City Council has approved engineering design to replace a critical 54 inch effluent line at the Waste Treatment Plant. The thumbs up, though, came after intense questioning that revealed a major omission in the ‘as written’ ordinance.

Frances Jackson asked Kit Anderson, executive director of the Huntington Sanitary Board, if work had commenced on what had been described as an emergency of a buckling pipe.

Anderson clarified that the board has been “monitoring minor dirt movement” at the line since a sink hole developed  about two years ago. Examination with a small surveillance like camera revealed the condition of the underground pipe worse than anticipated.

Although a failure of the pipe would be catastrophic, Anderson who replaced Loretta Covington as executive director in late March 2012,  admitted that the massive amount of  antiquated infrastructure has necessitated that the department play “triage” in prioritizing projects.

Still, Ms. Jackson stressed that the criticality of a possible collapse meant “this should have been taken care of before [now].”

Under additional question by Steve Williams, Anderson stated that the $141,000 engineering design for the project would not be influenced by the pending controversy surrounding a proposed barge mooring facility. He said the possible re-location of the line to mid-Ohio River had “not” been taken into consideration for the design.

Williams then analyzed that if the barge facility were to move forward, additional engineering costs and relocation costs should be borne by the owner of the proposed facility, Huntington Marine.

Jim Insco advised that the ordinance’s wording was vague and  did not state the funds were only for the  “engineering design.”

City Attorney Scott McClure determined that an amendment to accurately indicate the $141,000 expenditure would not be a significant change, thus, the item would not have to go to a third reading.

The complete repair/replacement project could cost $1.6 million dollars. Anderson said that a loan from the DEP revolving clean water fund would provide money for the project. He stressed this would be a “loan” not a “grant,” since per the DEP the city’s rates are too low. That despite a median per capita household  income   that places Huntington in the $23,000 range (or $16,717 per person).

Anderson told council that part of the dilemma faced by the board is that the federal government issues unfunded mandates and  the state Division of Environmental Protection often wants “top of the line” compliance. “I want to do what’s good enough,” he said, which would reflect a balancing of compliance and available revenue.

The unanimously approved design ordinance does not include any rate increases, although, the amount of deteriorating infrastructure and the state’s policy points eventually in that direction.

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