The Lower Scioto Water Reclamation Facility is nearly complete, but construction modifications continue to drive up the original contract price.

The Lower Scioto Water Reclamation Facility is nearly complete, but construction modifications continue to drive up the original contract price.

The sewage treatment plant is being built on 40 acres east and west of U.S. Route 42, and along Moore and Dublin roads in Concord Township.

Delaware County commissioners on May 16 approved a $717,000 change order for the project, which will pay for modifications to a sewer line that will feed into the facility.

The sewer line, 36 inches in diameter, initially was planned to run toward Dublin Road in an east to west direction at a length of 150 feet. While the line will still exit the plant at the same location, it will instead run north to south for 400 feet. The new location puts the sewer line behind residences, making it less intrusive and in a location viable for future development, said environmental services director Tiffany Jenkins.

The change order puts the construction cost at $23,336,655. The original contract was $21,986,625. The Concord-Scioto Community Authority and county sewer funds will pay for the project.

"This is one of those issues that I don't like but that I'll probably have to vote for," commissioner Ken O'Brien said during the meeting.

"It would have been better if the original plan had been implemented on the scheduled timeline," O'Brien told ThisWeek, saying that the cost is higher than he thinks it should be. Still, he said, the sewer line's new location will be slightly more useful.

The plant initially will have the capacity to accept and treat 1.4 million gallons of wastewater per day from residences in a 1,000-acre area bounded by Duffy Road to the south, U.S. 42 to the north, the Union County line to the west, and state Route 745 to the east.

Plant construction started in 2008, and was planned to be completed by September 2009. Jenkins, who has served as director since June 2010, said various construction issues have postponed the date. The plant is now about 95 percent complete. Kokosing Construction, with headquarters in Fredericktown, is the contractor.

Jenkins said the project has experienced some weather delays. "We have also been working through other construction and design issues that are typical on projects of this magnitude and complexity," she said.

Jenkins said she thinks the sewer project was implemented when a large residential development was proposed. The development has since been canceled, and Jenkins said the area is largely undeveloped. Though the sewer facility could be operational upon completion, she said, she hasn't "had people knocking on my door" requesting to tie into the facility. The plant's tap fee has not yet been established, but per the Intergovernmental Cooperation Agreement between the Concord/Scioto Community Authority and the county, the fee cannot be less than $5,900.

"It seems untimely now," Jenkins said of the plant's development, saying she's confident that "there will be sewage treated there" in the future.

Delaware County Regional Planning Commission director Scott Sanders said the county decided to update its sewer master plan around 2003 or 2004. The planning commission, along with the county and the Delaware General Health District identified areas that had population densities which could require future sewer connections.

The Delaware County Sewer Master Plan preliminary report from 2004 identified the Lower Scioto Service Area as one of four areas recommended for future sewer service. A map outlining land owner interest also identified possible land owner participation near the intersection of Merchant and Home roads.

Sanders said Village Communities originally planned to develop 850 residential lots on 1,000 acres between Merchant Road and U.S. 42. Village Communities also had proposed to construct the sewer facility. The plant was designed to serve the development as well as the rest of the township.

Numerous nearby residents have opposed the new plant.

The citizens group Friends of Concord Township filed a lawsuit against the project, stating that the facility was being built too close to their homes. A Marion County judge dismissed the lawsuit at the end of July 2009 because construction already had started.

Betsy Moffett of Concord Township spoke to commissioners on May 16 about a study the Ohio Department of Natural Resources conducted identifying sinkholes in the area. A member of Friends of Concord Township, Moffett said she had previously complained to the former commissioners about the plant being constructed near her neighborhood. "I would ask to make sure that those lines are going where they can go," Moffett said.

Moffett, who lives three properties north of the sewer line in question, told ThisWeek that the study needs to be looked at. "I think they need to work together to get the pipe across with the least trouble, and the information is there now for them to do this," she said.

The study identifies sinkholes and potential sinkholes within the western half of Delaware County and surrounding areas, including parts of Marion, Union, Franklin and Morrow counties. The research is part of a new Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geological Survey project. The study says the area has 375 confirmed sinkholes and 60 potential sinkholes, said Douglas Aden, geologist at Division of Geological Survey.

Delaware County is the third highest area in the state with the most concentrated areas of sinkholes, Aden said. The area of Adams, Brown and Highland counties ranks first, and the area of Seneca, Sandusky, Erie and Huron counties ranks second. In Ohio, 2 percent of the land has limestone and "heavy karst" (rock and soil) terrain, the necessary environment for sinkholes to form. Aden estimated that the average size of the sinkholes identified in the study ranged from two to 15 feet deep, and from one to 60 feet wide.

"Any structure built over a sinkhole could collapse down into it," Aden said, saying that there's also risk involved in building a structure adjacent to a sinkhole. Filling in a sinkhole is only a temporary fix.