PORT CLINTON - Port Clinton officials yesterday dedicated the city's newly renovated wastewater treatment plant, which has been retrofitted with a high-tech system that increases capacity, halting the flow of raw sewage into local waterways.
The $9 million project, completed this spring, is the first part of a two-phase effort to bring the 1950s facility into compliance with a 1999 consent agreement between the city and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The agreement, which required the city to upgrade the aging plant, settled two lawsuits filed by state and federal authorities that accused the city of dumping raw and partially treated sewage into the Portage River.
Mayor Tom Brown said yesterday that a European-designed system, Actiflo, has been installed at the plant on North Jackson Street. The system will allow the plant to treat up to 24 million gallons of sewage per day, six times the facility's previous capacity.
The new system went online earlier this spring, making Port Clinton one of the first cities in the United States to use the technology, Mr. Brown said.
"We've done something for the public to ensure their health and safety," he said. "We're very proud of the fact that we're going to be one of the first in the United States, if not the first, to use this system."
The mayor said about half of the project's cost has been covered by grants and loans, most of them obtained through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Much of the rest of the funding has come from sewer customers, who pay some of the highest rates in Ohio, the mayor acknowledged. The city was able to leverage those funds to obtain the federal aid.
According to an Ohio EPA report issued in 2002, the city's residents pay nearly double the state average for sewer service. In 2000, the average Port Clinton customer paid $612 a year, compared with $353 statewide.
Under the consent agreement, the city has until 2006 to complete a second improvement project at the plant.
Mr. Brown said that phase, estimated to cost about $5 million, would include installing equipment to dry out sludge produced at the plant and turn it into fertilizer for city landscaping projects.