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EEP slows wastewater expansion

MURFEESBORO – The NC Division of Water Quality gave the town of Murfreesboro a moratorium in April of 2003.

Almost four years later, the town is still fighting with that agency to get it lifted.

To date, two separate subdivisions have been put on hold as a result of the Water Quality Division’s order for Murfreesboro to cease and desist the expansion of the town’s wastewater treatment facilities.

The town was forced to pay a $4,000 fine when it signed a Special Order by Consent with the state organization in 2003 and has seen the status of local wetlands debated and revised on several occasions as local officials aspire to move forward with expansion plans.

In August of this year, Robert Graham of George Finch/Boney and Associates, the organization hired by the town to design the wastewater expansion, informed the council that the Army Corp of Engineers did not agree with his company’s designation of available wetlands.

At that time the Army Corp of Engineers determined that the proposed area for expansion did not have suitable square acreage to qualify as wetlands in the area that the town wanted to expand.

After having the Corp of Engineers reevaluate the area, the town was confident that the location had met all state and federal specifications.

Last month, the town found out that Ecosystems Enhancement Programs (EEP), a division of the Water Quality Division, did not agree with the previous wetlands designation.

In order to meet the new requirements, the town would be forced to redesign their expansion project in another area, or pay EEP close to $60,000 to come into the area and create enough wetlands to satisfy state requirements.

Graham said that although EEP seemed to come out of nowhere at the last minute, the company is part of the overall process and procedure which the water division has in place.

&uot;Every entity involved in the process of expanding the wastewater facility is trying to satisfy the Division of Water Quality,&uot; Graham said. &uot;The job of EEP is specifically to help create or restore wetlands.&uot;

According to Graham, there are now approximately two acres that would need to be either restored or created in order for EEP to endorse the town’s construction effort.

Murfreesboro Mayor Lynn Johnson felt as though the issue of having to finance any further landscape development did not become an issue until the council began requesting more involvement in the research process.

&uot;It seemed as though everything changed when we requested to start sitting in on meetings,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;Then out of the clear blue we get a letter informing us of the costs to have this organization (EEP) come in and create new wetlands.&uot;

Councilman Bill Theodorakis said that he wanted a timeline from the Division of Water Quality or the EEP so that the town could have some idea of when the town could move forward and what else could possibly hold up the construction effort.

&uot;It seems like every time we think we’ve met all the requirements something else comes up,&uot; Theodorakis said. &uot;We need a list that details every aspect of regulatory concern so that we can move forward with our expansion.&uot;

Graham was of the opinion that the town was much closer to the end of the process than the beginning.

&uot;A lot of the back and forth has been timing issues,&uot; Graham explained. &uot;We are about to see this project move to the next stage.&uot;