Rep. proposes stiffer fines for dumping sewage

Larry Limpf

Cities would face stiffer fines for dumping sewage into Lake Erie under a bill proposed by State Representative Jon Cross, R – Kenton.
Rep. Cross said the recent report of the City of Maumee dumping as much as 150 million gallons of sewage each year into the Maumee River for the past 20 years was one reason for sponsoring the bill.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency fined the city $29,936.
Under Cross’ bill, cities would face a fine of $250,000 for a first offense of knowingly violating the law, with a $1,000 per day fine for ongoing dumping. An additional $1 million would be added to the fine if the discharge exceeds 100 million gallons within a 12-month period.
"We need to shoot one across the bow and take this bill and shove it right up their sewer pipes to catch their attention, enough is enough," said Cross.
Algal blooms in Lake Erie, in particular the lake’s western basin, have been a major focus of policymakers in recent years. Farmers, Cross said, have been unfairly singled out as a cause of the blooms.
“Instead of blaming Northwest Ohio farmers, we should thank them for their work to help reduce Lake Erie algae,” said Cross. “The vast majority of farmers are good stewards of the environment.”
Rep. Mike Sheehy, D – Oregon, said any legislation designed to limit the pollution of Lake Erie should focus on agricultural run-off.
“I am extremely frustrated and deeply concerned with the amount of raw sewage Maumee has dumped in the Maumee River over the last 20 years. Ohio’s struggles against these harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie has put a strain on the people and businesses who rely on the health and well-being of the lake,” he said. “However, recently announced legislation to mitigate these algal blooms does not take into account the full scope of the issue at hand.
“Cities, villages, and other municipalities should be held responsible for violating their agreements with the Ohio EPA and dumping absurd amounts of sewage into Lake Erie, but we cannot lay the blame solely at their feet. Laws are already in place to deal with situations like this, and I am open to improving those laws, but not without addressing agricultural runoff. Studies conducted over the past decade have consistently shown that runoff from agricultural nutrient applications is the most significant contributor to phosphorus loading in the Western Basin of Lake Erie. When manure is over applied to farmland as a fertilizer, any excessive nutrients such as phosphorus will make their way through the watershed to Lake Erie.”
Maumee City Council voted July 6 to raise water and sewer rates incrementally by about 64 percent over the next four years.
The sewer rate increases will reflect an increased need by the city for sanitary sewer discharge services from Lucas County, according to the city website, and Ohio EPA-mandated sewer system upgrades and replacement.
The city discharged sewage into the river and failed to report the discharges since 1996.
“These violations were unrealized by council and not adequately reported by staff for 24 years,” said Mayor Richard Carr. “Upon uncovering them in July 2020, we immediately contacted the Ohio EPA, who worked with City of Maumee, to outline an order to bring our city into compliance. We are dedicated to resolving these issues under the guidance of the Ohio EPA.”
The EPA issued its findings on the matter on July 21 of this year
Maumee estimates the resolution will take approximately 30 years to complete at a cost in excess of $100 million, which includes the fine.


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