Richland county commissioners approve $27,000 for storm water study
In Mansfield, Ohio, Richland County commissioners have approved spending up to $27,000 for an engineering study to determine the best way to comply with U.S. EPA storm water regulations.
According to Richland Source, last month, commissioners met with the county's Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) to discuss the county's non-compliance since 2015 with Clean Water Act municipal storm water provisions for urban areas, known as the MS4 program.
There, commissioners discussed a new $1.3 million storm water utility program that could cost each household in four Richland County townships as much as $36 annually, beginning in 2021.
Residents in unincorporated portions of Madison, Washington, Springfield and Mifflin townships would be subject to the fee, which would be added to property tax bills, according to Richland Source.
On April 11, commissioners opted to help fund an engineering study to identify the "most efficient, cost-effective way for the county to become compliant and stay compliant with EPA regulations." According to the Source, commissioners said the funds for the study will come from the capital improvements fund, not operating funds.
According to the Source, commissioners and the SWCD will do a joint request for qualifications to help identify the engineering firm to do the work. The contract with the firm will be paid on a per-hour basis, commissioners said.
If the study finds that a storm water utility program is the best way to meet EPA regulations, commissioners said they would proceed with that plan.
"We're not there yet," Commissioner Marilyn John said, according to the Source. "I don't want to enter this under the presumption that is where we will end up. I want to be open-minded and figure it out."
SWCD Administrator Erica Thomas said the study should determine the "true cost" of what it will take the county to comply with EPA regulations, according to the Source.
The Ohio EPA, which administers the MS4, notified the county in 2015 that it was not meeting regulations and sent a second notice of non-compliance in August 2018. According to the Source, failing to come into compliance could lead to fines of $10,000 per day, however, the EPA has not indicated plans to levy such fines.