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Council members dive in, calling for joint action on Muddy Creek sewage problem

Posted at 5:19 PM, Feb 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-19 19:41:44-05

GREEN TWP., Ohio — Cincinnati City Council member Greg Landsman is calling for the city and county to sit down together every other week until the sewage issue plaguing Muddy Creek is resolved.

These days, the creek isn't so much muddy as it is filled with sewage that fills the surrounding areas in Green Township with a smell neighbors said has been growing for years.

“If you go into your bathroom, take care of business," said Green Township resident Joe Seta. "That’s what it smells like. Period. And it’s overwhelming. Your bathrooms probably have a lesser smell, quite honestly.”

Running alongside -- and in some portions inside -- Muddy Creek is a Metropolitan Sewer District sewer pipe. It takes wastewater down to the Muddy Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. However, a portion of the pipe in Green Township is nearly 100 years old. It’s cracked and broken. Sewage overflows out of it.

In fact, MSD estimates more than 300 million gallons of raw sewage leak into the creek each year.

Landsman is calling the issue an "environmental disaster." He said if the back and forth between the city and county -- who haven't been able to agree on a solution to the problem -- it will continue to trickle down into more projects.

The project was supposed to be complete by Dec. 31, 2019. Because that hasn’t happened, MSD estimates that it could be fined $2.7 million by the Environmental Protection Agency. That number increases with every day the project is not complete.

"It is horrible for rate payers, it is horrible for the environment," said Landsman.

Landsman is calling for joint public hearings to bring the city, county and all the community stakeholders together to force them to make a decision on what to do.

"Worst-case scenario, everyone has an opportunity to put everything on the table, we don't get a resolution," said Landsman. "Best-case scenario, we put it all out there and get to a resolution."

The hearings would happen every other week at the city's Major Projects and Smart Government committee meetings. City council members unanimously agree the Muddy Creek sewer issue is a major problem, but council member Chris Seelbach said he has little hope the city and county will be able to come together to agree on a solution.

Until they do, rate payers aren't just paying for the proposed new pipe: They're paying the fines related to the environmental impact of the problem, too.

"I don't know how rate payers can afford what's coming at us," said city council member Wendell Young.

MSD itself said a final decision is needed, because putting a Band-Aid on it simply won't work.

"It is not a viable solution, it is risky, not recommended, more expensive," said Diana Christy, director of MSD.

Even if a fix is agreed upon for this particular issue, however, some council members said it won't solve the main big-picture problem: The entire system needs to be reworked.

"We're stuck in a marriage that just isn't working," said Young.

The city and county are currently fighting in court over that marriage, and because of that, it's been doubted that the pair are even able to sit down for a joint meeting on this issue. The city solicitor's office said they believe the meeting would be fine, but discussion has to be kept to the facts of solutions without any mention of legal issues or proceedings.