Northeast Ohio: Starr cites EPA Florida delay in bid to block sewer rate hike

6:28 PM, Nov 16, 2010   |    comments
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THE EPA Monday set standards for Florida, governing pollution that fed algae blooms that have clogged Florida's waterways.

But the agency delayed enforcement of the rules for 15 months.

Sewer Board Director Julius Ciaccia said it's a "different issue and not a relevant comparison."

It involves latitude in meeting new regulations, he said.

Northeast Ohio's decades-long violation of the Clean Water Act is not the same and would be unlikely to win more flexibilty from the EPA, Ciaccia claimed.

The District and EPA have reached an agreement that would more than triple rates over the next 25 years to pay for tunnels and projects to reduce the amount of sewage dumped in Lake Erie.

Starr claims the region's depressed economy should have weighed more in the settlement.

And Starr said the settlement ignores the message voters sent in this month's election in favor of less regulation and lower taxes.

He calls it the largest unvoted tax or utility hike in the region's history.

Ciaccia claims the region's hard-pressed economy was considered and federal officials relented on more than $700 million of additional projects they originally wanted.

Starr and Ciaccia faced off Tuesday in a meeting with Plain Dealer editorial decision-makers.

The Sewer Board has two more public meetings this week to discuss the looming increase with citizens. Tonight's meeting is in Cleveland. Wednesday night's is in Parma.

The Board is expected to discuss the issue at its Thursday meeting and vote on it in December.

A large turnout, including Tea Party members, is expected at Thursday's meeting.

Ciaccia said those against the looming rate hike should take any protests to the EPA.

Doug Price, CEO of the K & D Group that owns 45 apartment buildings with 12,000 tenants, is crusading against the hike and writing officeholders who appoint district board members.

Price claims the deal has been sprung upon rate-payers and would be devastating to struggling businesses and families.


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