October 20, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria loses fight to halt sewer project

ELYRIA — The city lost its efforts Thursday to temporarily halt work on the Lorain County Rural Wastewater District’s sewer project before it began.

Lisa Eschleman, chair of the Ohio Environmental Review Appeals Commission, said the board unanimously rejected the city’s request for a stay on the LORCO project. A full hearing on the city’s request to overturn an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency permit to install the sewer will take place in April, she said.

LORCO President Jim McConnell said he was relieved that the stay was rejected and that work will proceed.

Contractors have already begun to prepare some of the land for the 37½-mile sewer, he said.

Elyria Law Director Terry “Pete” Shilling said Thursday that just because there’s nothing stopping LORCO from legally starting work on the project doesn’t mean it will be too far along to stop by the time the April hearing arrives.

LORCO still needs to win several lawsuits against landowners who have refused to grant LORCO permission to dig under their property to install the sewer line. That could slow the project down long enough for the April hearing to make a difference.

But he also said if LORCO wins those lawsuits quickly and has progressed far enough in the project, it could render the hearing moot.

City officials have complained that LORCO’s sewer lines, which will run from parts of Carlisle and Eaton townships to the Avon Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant, will put LORCO into competition with the city, which operates its own sewer system.

“We feel this is a long-term potential problem for the city,” Shilling said last week after the permit to install and a water quality certification was granted to Avon Lake for the sewer project.

The sewer line could allow nearby homeowners in a sewer area assigned to Elyria to tap into the LORCO line and also disrupt the city’s continued expansion via annexation, Shilling said last week.

“The natural progression of the city of Elyria is south,” he said.

McConnell said the city is waging a fight he doesn’t believe it can win. The hearing Thursday only lasted a few hours but could have gone on much longer, he said.

“I think that the fact that it only took the board essentially a couple hours says something,” he said.

LORCO has also faced opposition from residents and other critics, who contend that the sewer — which is estimated to cost about $14 million — isn’t necessary and is not economically feasible.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.