Ohio EPA Approves City of Plain Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion


The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has approved a final permit for Plain City to double the capacity of its wastewater treatment plant, paving the way for more residential and commercial development that environmentalists say , will threaten the health of Big Darby Creek.

“Basically the Ohio EPA has approved this permit which would allow additional development in the Darby,” said Darby Creek Association member and Hilliard resident Brian Gara.

“If something goes wrong, the fact that a few developers in Plain City will make money, a million and a half people in central Ohio won’t have this incredible resource on their doorstep. It should have been considered more carefully,” Gara said.

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The permit allows the Plain City Wastewater Treatment Plant to double its capacity from 750,000 gallons per day to 1.5 million gallons. In a statement, the Ohio EPA said the permit includes conditions in the permit so that Big Darby’s water quality is maintained and aquatic habitat and mussels are protected.

The agency says that although Plain City can increase the volume of sewagepollutant discharge levels have been capped so that they remain at the levels allowed by the old permit.

Ohio EPA spokesman Anthony Chenault said while the new permit allows for an increase in wastewater discharges, the amount of pollutants allowed remains the same.

Chenault explained it this way, “If you’re allowed to have a thousand-gallon drop, it’s now a 2,000-gallon drop.”

Additionally, Plain City will upgrade its plant to ensure it meets effluent limits, the state said.

More Central Ohio Development Means Plain City

John Tetzloff, president of the Darby Creek Association, said state officials are not considering the impact more development will have on stormwater runoff in the creek.

“They’re doubling the capacity. It’s more than a little growth. It’s a significant expansion of Plain City,” Tetzloff said.

“As far as I know, they still ignore stormwater impacts,” he said.

Anthony Sasson, a research associate for the Midwest Biodiversity Institute, a nonprofit environmental group, said the Ohio EPA says the permit conditions meet Clean Water Act standards. “What we’re interested in is staying above the Clean Water Act minimum,” he said.

Gara said the state did not sufficiently consider the impact on the ecologically sensitive mussels that inhabit the Darby.

“Ohio EPA stream sampling protocols look at biology, but look at fish and insects,” he said.

“You may have mussel decline, but fish and insects may not indicate there is a problem,” he said.

Chenault said Plain City has 27 months to develop a plan, survey mussel populations in the receiving stream, and report the results to the Ohio EPA..

Plain City administrator Haley Lupton did not call back Tuesday.

The licensing process has been going on for more than a year, with public hearings in October 2021 and July this year.

How Columbus housing affects the decision

Jon Melchi, executive director of the Building Industry Association of Central Ohio, said there is a significant need for housing not just in Plain City, but in Greater Columbus in general.

“Look at the area. We can definitely see a lot of continued demand there and what Plain City has to offer. It’s a desirable place to live and work and we expect that to continue,” said Melchi, who said his organization weighed in with the Ohio EPA during the process.

“We felt it was important for the Ohio EPA to work with Plain City on this expansion,” he said.

Developers are eyeing the Plain City area and others west of Big Darby because they are not communities that signed the Big Darby Accord in 2006 which restricts development in the Franklin County portion of the watershed. Environmentalists would like to see something like the Big Darby Accord in other parts of the watershed.

“These protections go beyond Ohio EPA standards,” Gara said.

What the Ohio EPA said about Plain City

The Ohio EPA said in its statement that if Plain City seeks capacity requests beyond 1.5 million gallons per day, the state will consider options such as sending the water to another plant. which would not discharge it into the Darby watershed.

The final permit and response to the document can be found on this website: https://epa.ohio.gov/divisions-and-offices/surface-water/announcements. For more information on how to appeal, call the Ohio Environmental Review AppealsCommission (ERAC) at (614) 466-8950. Appeals must generally be filed within 30 days of the issuance of a final decision, which was issued Oct. 3.

Tetzloff said his group is considering all options.

“This is the Darby’s last fight,” Tetzloff said. “That’s it.”

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