MORELAND HILLS — Representatives from the Cuyahoga County Board of Health appeared before council recently to address lingering questions about the sanitary sewer tie-in mandate. Overall, county Sanitarian Program Manager Nate McConoughey said that the mandate came from the county board of health, not the village, and the board is working with residents and the village to determine what makes a property accessible to the sewer, central to the county’s mandate.

“There’s no established distance, there’s no process, there’s no determination of what’s a hardship,” Councilman Paul Stanard said at the Sept. 4 meeting.

“There’s really nothing except this board of health saying, ‘This property has to be connected and we’re going to determine what financial hardship is,’” Mr. Stanard said. “Why are we forced to make our own residents upset when ultimately it’s your authority that’s determining the process?”

In February, 23 residents received a letter from the county board of health mandating that they abandon their septic systems and tie into the regional sewer because their properties were accessible to the line. Since then, the village has been working to define accessibility and appease the concerned residents, who are facing costs of at least $15,000 to tap in.

Council members hit on a few major points regarding the sewer tie-in process, including how to determine accessibility and topographical constraints. Since there currently is no definition for accessibility in the Ohio Administrative Code, Mr. McConoughey said that the county board is working with the Ohio Department of Health to clearly define the term. Mr. Stanard noted that other communities in Cuyahoga County can each make their own rules.

“I can’t say that we’re not working on that internally,” Mr. McConoughey said. “This case was an eye opener.”

Councilman Steve Richman asked about various exceptions to the rule including if the landowner has a functional septic system. Mr. McConoughey said the working order of a septic system is irrelevant according to the code. The code states that if the property is accessible, the board of health must mandate the connection, he explained.

Would a village policy allowing for exceptions such as the grade of the land make a difference, Mr. Richman asked.

“The code doesn’t allow us to do that,” Mr. McConoughey replied. “If they are accessible, we have to make them connect to the sewer regardless of a functioning system.”

Council President Dan Fritz said that Moreland Hills has topographical constraints that may prevent a property owner from connecting to the sewer. He inquired about the process to tie-in if there is this kind of constraint.

Mr. McConoughey said that there is no formal process to review topographical constraints. He advised residents with possible issues such economic hardship or landscape restraints to contact the county health board to discuss how to move forward. There is no dollar amount to constitute an economic hardship.

County Sanitarian Supervisor Domenica McClintock told council that the health board encourages residents to discuss challenges early on.

“We tell people not to wait until the last minute,” she said. “It’s not possible to put a policy in place to meet the needs of everyone in Cuyahoga County.”

Mr. McConoughey reiterated that the board of health is willing to work with property owners to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs as they continue to work with the Ohio Department of Health to define accessibility.

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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