Area residents met with Ohio Environmental Protection Agency officials yesterday to voice concerns about odors and pollution from the Lucas County Maumee River wastewater treatment plant in Waterville.
The agency held a public hearing, attended by about 30 people, in Waterville council chambers. The agency must decide whether to issue a permit to the plant at 5758 North River Rd., which would allow it to discharge more treated water into the Maumee River.
The treatment plant, which serves several municipalities, is undergoing an expansion to increase its capacity from 15 million gallons a day to 22.5 million gallons. The plant will be able to take in more wastewater, so it wants to be able to discharge more treated water into the river.
More water being released from the plant would mean a greater amount of pollutants going into the river, officials said, but the amount of pollutants like ammonia, bacteria, and heavy metals still would have to fall within state limits.
Ron Blaser of Maumee said he's concerned about more pollutants going into the river. "I'd hate to see a scenic Ohio river like the Maumee end up like the Ottawa River, which has really been killed," he said.
The most common complaint from residents was that the plant frequently produces an unpleasant odor. "I'd like to be assured that the plant will take some steps to solve the odor problem before they are granted a permit," said John Guy of Waterville.
County officials said they try to reduce the smell when neighbors complain, but they must be careful in that too many chemicals to fix the odor because those chemicals kill needed bacteria and can jeopardize the treatment process.
Jim Shaw, county sanitary engineer, said the plant expansion, scheduled for completion in October, includes installing some equipment designed to decrease the odor. "It's our goal to reduce these odors substantially," he said.
The Ohio EPA will accept written public comments on the plant's permit application through Tuesday. Comments can be mailed to: Ohio EPA, Division of Surface Water, Attention: Permits Processing Unit, P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, OH 43216-1049.
Mary McCarron, the agency's public involvement coordinator, said the Ohio EPA will consider all public comments before granting a permit, but the agency would approve the permit if the plant's discharge meets state laws. "As long as the permit meets state regulations, it would be very difficult for the EPA to deny it," she said. "We have to work within the confines of the law."