After more than a year of negotiations, the Sierra Club and Franklin County have reached an agreement to settle the Club’s claims that Franklin County is violating the federal Clean Water Act.

In June of 2011, the Sierra Club filed a sixty-day notice of intent to sue Franklin County and seventeen townships in federal court for illegal discharges from private sewage systems within Franklin County. Failing septic tanks and aerators are responsible for this contamination. The discharges have been contaminating Franklin County waterways with human and other waste, posing an environmental and public health threat.

The Sierra Club believes the agreed upon measures will form an important beginning in improving the health of Franklin County’s waterways and its residents. Although this settlement won’t completely eliminate the problem of contamination from home sewage treatment systems, it is certainly an improvement and will go a long way toward establishing a county program to eliminate sewage pollution from our waterways.

The Sierra Club and Franklin County will submit their agreement in coming weeks to the federal court in Columbus for approval as an enforceable court order. The settlement includes provisions such as additional staff dedicated to prosecuting illegal sewage discharges, a minimum number of home sewage treatment system inspections that the County will perform annually, more coordination between County departments, and more transparency and information will be provided to citizens.

This problem has existed in Franklin County for decades, so, unfortunately, there is no easy or immediate solution. But we’re optimistic that these changes will result in water quality improvements and benefit County residents.

The primary contributor to sewage contamination in the county is failing aerator systems that discharge directly into storm sewers. There are approximately 4,000 identified failing aerator systems in Franklin County and many more that have yet to be discovered. The federal Clean Water Act prohibits discharges of sewage from the County’s storm sewer system.

Franklin County is responsible for developing a system to eliminate those discharges. The Club plans to closely monitor the County’s elimination program to ensure that it is being properly implemented.

As part of the settlement, the County will post more public resources on its website where residents can access new information such as locations of contamination. Residents are encouraged to use utilize these resources to ensure that their families and pets avoid contamination.

Franklin County has a hotline and website where suspected discharges can be reported anonymously. It is 614-525-4787 or Email. The Sierra Club urges residents to report any suspected discharges.