CHILLICOTHE - As county officials try to determine how to address an aging Union Heights wastewater treatment package plant, they are exploring whether taking a regional approach to the issue may help spur economic development in the vicinity of Ross County's Shoemaker Airport.
The Ross County Commissioners earlier this week met with representatives of ms consultants, inc., a Columbus engineering, architecture, and planning firm the board had commissioned to determine the best alternative for making improvements to the Union Heights facility. The firm came back with three service item reports — one of which laid out what is known about the existing plant, a second which looked specifically at engineering alternatives and funding opportunities for Union Heights and a third that looked at whether a regional sewer system along the Ohio 104 corridor is a viable option.
The regional alternative drew the most discussion at the meeting, with the thought that an expansion of sewer service could help the portion of the county around the airport become more attractive for potential developers and companies looking to locate a new facility. One of the weaknesses of that area, however, is that it is also lacking the type of natural gas service that companies would be looking for in a potential plant construction situation.
Still, consultants Alex Beres and Andrew Fruehling said, expanding sewer service would be a start as it would address one of those two pressing development needs.
Beres and Fruehling examined the Ohio 104 corridor as part of their analysis and carved out five potential development zones, along with the Ross County Fairgrounds, that could potentially be impacted by sewer regionalization. Of those, only two — the area that includes Union Heights and the area directly around the airport — were seen as viable locations for significant sewer system users and development potential over the next decade or so.
In essence, two options were put forth for addressing issues with the Union Heights wastewater package plant. The first would involve rehabilitating or replacing the existing plant, while the second would involve demolishing the existing plant and constructing a new pump station with a force main that ties in with the large capacity wastewater treatment plant at Chillicothe Correctional Institution.
The first option was recommended as the better one due to the fact that to tie into CCI's plant would require the running of several miles of new pipe to Union Heights, an expensive proposition.
Once the consultants determined the first option to be the best, they began to explore regionalization scenarios utilizing a revamped Union Heights plant. The ideal situation, they noted, was if the footprint of the plant could be expanded. That, however, would prove difficult under current geographic realities where it now sits.
Another factor to consider in exploring the options is the cost to users of the system. One of the large drawbacks of any plan to run pipe north from CCI, in addition to the installation cost, is that there would not be enough users presently along that stretch to bring costs down for users.
The commissioners will take the three reports and review them more closely before further discussion of the options for the existing plant.