Youngstown mayor addresses sewage issue at Mill Creek

Mill Creek Park lake closures
FILE - Closure signs were posted at the lakes during the summer of 2015 due to high E-coli bacteria levels.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – There are still a lot of unanswered question about the sewage spill that has closed the lakes at Mill Creek MetroParks, including who is responsible and how is it going to be fixed.

WKBN 27 First News took those questions to Youngstown Mayor John McNally, who said this is all connected to a multi-million dollar project to upgrade the city’s waste water system, which is a $146 million project that is going to take 20 years to finish.

The terms of the project were negotiated more than a decade ago, in 2002, through the Ohio and U.S. EPA. Those terms are not likely to change, but McNally said he wants to see the problem fixed as soon as possible.

Until then, city waste water crews will keep testing the water at the park to see if there is more bacteria.

“There is no one thing that is going to fix everything about this particular situation. People might not like to hear that, but it is just the facts of how this system works,” McNally said.

An alphabet soup of agencies are involved in the sewage situation. Mill Creek officials are waiting on tests results from the state EPA.

Tests by the city of Youngstown and Mahoning County Board of Health tests both show high levels of e.coli in the water. On Friday night, Mill Creek MetroParks Director Aaron Young said it was difficult to find out if the water was safe.

And there is still a lot of confusion about who is checking the levels now.

Park officials said as far as they know, no new tests are being done, but McNally said city waste water crews are still out at the park testing the water.

“We are going to continue to do our own testing, just to monitor what we think is appropriate as well,” McNally said.

He admitted it is the city’s responsibility to make sure more sewage does not get into the water. Upgrading the old system is going to take decades. The project does not start for years and follows agreements made with the state and federal EPA. However, public pressure could speed up the process.

“I certainly hope the park reaches out to our federal and state legislatures to try to find the money to do this in a quicker fashion,” McNally said.

As far as a short term fix, McNally said he is in the dark.

“But I have yet to be told by anybody, whether is is the park, the Ohio EPA, the U.S. EPA and my own staff, what temporary fix could be put in place,” he said.

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