‘The saga — it’s done’
No one thought it could be done. Only a few were willing to try. But the last Richmond and Rubio sanitary sewer projects will no longer be items on the agendas of the Washington County Board of Supervisors and the Washington County Board of Health.
During the June 10 Board of Health meeting, board chairman Dr. Lloyd Holm asked, “How many of you thought this would be accomplished by June 1, within a couple of days, in 2014? How many thought that would happen? No way in hell this would happen.”
Washington County Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. answered, “According to the last meeting we had with the DNR, they also would have voted for that also — no way in hell.”
Board of Health member Dr. Wendy Miller asked, “So, are they going to release us from any penalties then?”
Environmental Health director Jennine Wolf reached for a letter from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources dated June 10, and read, “I can confirm that the DNR considers Washington County to have satisfied the terms of the Administrative Order and no further obligations remain. We will consider that matter closed.”
Wolf then thanked Seward for all the work he did to see the county through the process of eliminating communitywide sewer systems, and requiring each homeowner in the two communities to show they had a private septic system that complied with state law.
Drawing attention to her spreadsheet detailing all the residents and compliant systems, Wolf said, “ That is the last report of the Richmond/Rubio update — the saga that went on for 14 years now, and it’s done.”
She told the board of health that a couple of homes will have notices posted warning that the house shall remain uninhabited until a private septic system meeting state regulations is complete.
Seward said, “Environmental Health director Jennine Wolf does, indeed, deserve the lion’s share of the credit for shepherding this project along.”
He also said that his role “was small compared to the support the communities generated to choose the course of action they wanted, voted for, and followed through. There were several of these community leaders recognized by their fellow friends and neighbors, and these unsung residents of Richmond and Rubio are the ones that really deserve the credit.”
Earlier this week in a letter to the editor printed in The Journal, Tom Duwa of Richmond, and member of the Residents for a Better Richmond, wrote, “Last August we began working to upgrade our septic systems, at our own expense, to obey the DNR’s administrative order for all systems to be compliant by June 1, 2014. Last week, less than a year later, the county received notification from the DNR’s attorney stating that the county had met its obligations, and the matter is considered closed.”
The matter did begin 14 years ago when the DNR found untreated human waste. Along the way, Washington County hired an engineering firm to study both communities and to recommend ways the sewage could be handled. The engineers recommended a $2 million public system for Richmond, and a smaller solution for Rubio. The county joined the Regional Utility Service Systems (RUSS), which worked on the public systems. Washington County taxpayers repaid RUSS $386,194 to end the public systems. The county is still a member of RUSS.