Dublin officials weren’t surprised by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) latest refusal to pay for its damaging of a town sewer line, but it was a statement in the EPA’s letter to Town Manager Bill Parker that has them perplexed.
“Because sewage is not considered a ‘hazardous substance, or pollutant or contaminant’ under the definitions provided by” the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, “the costs associated with this application are not eligible for reimbursement under the EPA” Local Government Reimbursement (LGR) program, LGR project officer Lisa A. Boynton states in a July 25 letter to Parker.
Parker said he is saving the letter for the next time the town has a sewer spill. “I can tell (EPA) it’s not a contaminant,” he added.
“We’ve already paid for this wedding, so let’s have a little fun,” Parker told Dublin Town Council Thursday at the beginning of discussion about the sewer line debacle.
He was referring to the fact the town had to pay nearly $23,000 to repair a sewer line after a contractor hired by the EPA on behalf of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) drilled through a main sewer line in November while installing water monitoring wells at Electroplate-Rite. The contractor not only drilled through the line, but also pumped it full of concrete, requiring Dublin to hire H.T. Bowling to replace 45 feet of sewer line.
When developing the agenda for Thursday’s meeting, Parker entitled the topic “Report concerning EPA’s repudiation letter regarding the town’s petition in the Local Government Reimbursement Program.” He said he intentionally chose the word “repudiation” for a reason.
“I’m trying to be a wordsmith like (Dublin town attorney Tommy Baker),” Parker said. “I’m sure Mr. Baker already knows this, but one of the definitions is to divorce or separate formally from a woman. Repudiation is the act of repudiating, the state of being repudiated or refusal of public authorities to acknowledge or pay a debt. So I chose this word on purpose.”
After Parker finished reading the letter from Boynton, Mayor Benny Skeens asked, “can we repudiate them?” Parker responded that he already has, “but I don’t know if they heard me.”
Noting that the EPA used to have an office in Dublin, Skeens said, “This is the same bunch of folks that, if we had a construction site and a little bit of mud washed out in the road … they’d call Bill up and you’d think the world was coming to an end.”
However, Skeens added, the EPA can drill through a sewer line and the sewage isn’t contamination.
Council member Dallas Cox suggested maybe the town should have just walked away from the problem created by the agency.
Parker said he asked an EPA official what would have happened if he had just walked away and the representative said, “in all honesty he didn’t know.”
“They’d have put you in jail,” Cox said.
Skeens said the town could have left the grouted portion closed and patched it where Dublin’s sewage enters the line “and turned this all over to Pulaski and Pulaski County because that was their pipe too. So, we’ve basically been hit with the bill to fix everybody’s.”
“I bet if we’d have plugged that thing up and the manhole covers had been blowing off on Route 11 and in Pulaski …,” said Skeens.
“They’d have repudiated us,” Parker interjected.
Although Boynton’s letter suggests the town can appeal the decision to the EPA within 60 days, Parker said, “I believe this ends it. I think this is the last turn down we’ll receive.”