Richland county commissioners approve $27,000 for storm water study
In Mansfield, Ohio, Richland County commissioners approved spending up to $27,000 for an engineering study to determine how to efficiently comply with U.S. EPA storm water regulations.
According to Richland Source, commissioners met with the county's Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) last month to discuss the county's non-compliance since 2015 with Clean Water Act municipal storm water provisions for urban areas, also known as the MS4 program.
There, commissioners discussed a new $1.3 million storm water utility program. According to Richland Source, the program could cost each household in all four Richland County townships as much as $36 annually, beginning in 2021.
Residents in unincorporated portions of Madison, Washington, Springfield and Mifflin townships would then have to pay to the fee, which would be added on top of residents' property tax bills, according to Richland Source.
On April 11, commissioners decided 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 funds for the study will come from capital improvement funds, not operating funds.
According to the Source, commissioners and the SWCD are planning a request for qualifications to help identify the right engineering firm to perform the work. The contract with the firm will be paid on a per-hour basis, commissioners said. They also said if the study finds a storm water utility program is the the best way to comply with EPA regulations, they would go 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 funds the county needs to comply with regulations, according to the Source.
The Ohio EPA notified the county in 2015 that it was failing meeting regulations and also sent a second notice in August 2018. According to the Source, failing to meet compliance may lead to fines of $10,000 per day, however, the EPA has not indicated plans to impose fines.