The city of Bexley is working toward a Feb. 11 deadline to submit a plan to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency on how the city will fix its sanitary sewer system and stop overflows.
The remedy may cost an estimated $60 million and take 40 years to implement in its entirety, according to estimates by a consulting firm the city hired to analyze the problem.
"This gives you a guideline of what is really high priority" to address, said Marcie Bland, a representative with New Albany area engineering firm EMH&T, in giving a report to Bexley City Council Jan. 14.
According to Bland's presentation, Bexley's plan will be similar to the city of Columbus' 40-year Wet Weather Management Plan, which the Ohio EPA approved in 2009.
Columbus' plan requires cooperation from Bexley and 21 other neighboring communities. Bexley has eight connections to Columbus' sanitary sewer system, Bland said.
To prepare its plan for the Ohio EPA, Bexley hired EMH&T to conduct a five-year study of the city's sanitary sewer system. The firm's report found that the system is capturing up to 43 percent of stormwater.
"Not only are we capturing 43 percent of the rainfall, but we're also exceeding what Columbus would consider should be our peak flow," she said.
As part of the study, EMH&T compared Bexley's sewer system to Columbus' design standards.
"These sewer systems were designed to carry about 9.7 cubic feet per second," Bland said. "We're at about one and a half times higher than that, which is 14.9 cubic feet per second."
If Bexley follows the 40-year plan, refurbishing the sewer lines will cost about $220,000 a year.
"We knew this day was coming," Councilman Mark Masser said. "It's just figuring out how we're going to pay for it, because the EPA is going to make us do something."
Last June, city council passed an ordinance creating a new water and sewer capital fee, which is being assessed to residents starting this month. The capital fee is to be used exclusively for the replacement and repair of water and sewer infrastructure. The fee is a 6.56 percent premium over the water and sewer rates, equivalent to an approximately $15 per quarter fee for the average Bexley water and sewer bill.
"There is a built-in capital improvements budget in those water and sewer funds," Mayor Ben Kessler said.
The capital fee will not cover the entire cost of the $60 million, 40-year plan, however, and city officials must discuss how to pay for the rest of the project, Kessler said.
Once the city's sewer improvement plan has been submitted to the Ohio EPA, the agency will review the plan and indicate if the plan has been approved. If rejected, the city can negotiate on how to revise the plan.