Overlook Hills sewage treatment in limbo

Published 8:18 pm Tuesday, March 17, 2009

About 92 residences north of Selma need a place to dump their sewage. State and federal pollution control agencies have threatened to fine the Overlook Hills Sanitary Sewer Collection and Treatment System if they don’t.

The people in those houses in the subdivision off Alabama Highway 22 in Valley Grande want to install a pumping station and force main to connect to the Selma Sanitary Sewer System, meter the effluent and pay a fee.

But members of the Selma Water Works and Sewer Board want more information about how all this will be handled. The board met Tuesday with its engineer, Ray Hogg, and W.F. Cosby Jr., who is acting as owner of Overlook Hills Water and Sewer to ask questions about the proposed agreement.

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Under the agreement, Selma’s water board would act as applicant to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a State and Tribal Assistance Grant, take over ownership, operate and maintain the pumping station and force main once the construction is complete and collect money from Overlook Hills Water and Sewer for its services. The pumping station is planned for construction behind Wallace Community College, according to Hogg.

Additionally, Hogg said the board would not have to hire extra workers to read a meter at the station designed to measure the sewage. Selma Water and Sewer would bill Cosby each month for the cost of treating the sewer. Cosby said he would pay the bill and collect from the 92 households in the area to recover his money.

In return, Overlook Hills would provide all matching money for the federal grant, deed the property for the station to the Selma water board and provide or buy all necessary easements of rights-of-way for the force main. Overlook Hills also would own, operate and maintain all of the sanitary sewer collector lines upstream from the sewage pump station.

Some board members raised questions about how Selma would recoup payment for treating the sewage. In Selma, customers’ sewer bills are based on 75 percent of their water usage. But, under the agreement, Selma would have to develop a way to meter sewer usage without providing water services.

Superintendent George Evans suggested the board wait and receive some answers to some questions.

But Cosby is pushing a deadline. On Dec. 23, 2008, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and the Overlook Hills Water and Sewer entered into a consent order because Overlook violated its permit. The consent order requires Overlook Hills to do whatever necessary to bring the sewer system into compliance with its permit.

“Nothing will do but to get tied on to a public service,” Cosby told the board.

Cosby and others have worked with Congressman Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, who represents the area in Washington, D.C. to get a public utilities grant for construction of the pumping station and force main. But a deadline is looming to get the grant, Cosby said.

This is the second time Cosby missed a deadline for the grant.

“I had talked previously to the former mayor and chair before it went to the board to get the agreement; we were denied at that time, and they said it was useless to come to the board,” Cosby said. “I tried to come up with another plan, but that one didn’t work.”

Although some board members want more information, at least one, B.L. Tucker, said he sees no problem with helping out neighbors.

“One day I may move to Valley Grande, if I live; I believe this board needs to work with every city and entity and help do what’s right. I believe they would do the same for us,” he said.