Leader Blues

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

TOP STORY>> Irate residents: No sewer plant

Leader staff writer

Residents of the area about two miles southeast of Cabot where a private sewer treatment plant could be built to serve a development of up to 1,100 houses told representatives of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality on Monday night that they don’t want it.

They don’t want the sewer plant because they fear it will cause Wattensaw Bayou to flood. They also are concerned about noise, odor, mosquitoes, devaluation of their property and problems with their septic tanks if the ground becomes saturated from water discharged from the plant.

Wattensaw Bayou, the receiving stream for the plant doesn’t run, they said. The water backs up.

The meeting was run by ADEQ Director Teresa Marks and engineers familiar with the proposed project.

In addition to about 100 residents, the meeting was attended by state officials, Rep. Susan Schulte, Rep. Lenville Evans and Sen. Bobby Glover; Cabot officials, Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, City Attorney Jim Taylor, four council members and four members of the water and wastewater commission; Lonoke County officials, County Judge Charlie Troutman and two quorum court members.

In a nutshell, ADEQ officials said that although they have the authority to grant or deny the permit for the sewer-treatment plant, they can’t deny it if the plans for the plant meet all their department’s specifications, which it does.

“Unless there is a sound reason based in science…or a legal reason to deny this permit we can’t do that,” Marks said.

By submitting written comments by Friday Jan. 11, or speaking for the record during the official public hearing portion of the meeting, residents ensured that they would be able to appeal the ADEQ’s decision if the permit is granted.

Sen. Glover was the only guest who walked to the front of the room at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, where the meeting was held and took the microphone during the question-and-answer portion of the meeting. If the developer meets the ADEQ requirements, the permit for his sewer-treatment plant will be granted, Glover told the group.

“I have not been contacted by a single person (among about 30) who was in favor of this project,” he said, and reminded them that an appeal to the ADEQ is not the last step. They can appeal to circuit court.

Although the opposition to the sewer plant was very vocal, Eutaw Horton, the developer who wants to build the subdivision and the sewer treatment plant, did not speak during the meeting. Afterwards, he said no one in the group who opposes his proposal had contacted him.

If they had, he would have told them that it will likely take 10 years to build 550 houses and those houses won’t be as small as they have heard.

There won’t be any 1,000 or 1,200-square-foot houses, and 1,500-square-foot houses aren’t small, Horton said.

He might also have told them that he plans to build a 12-acre lake on his 258.5 acres and surround that lake with houses 2,500 square feet or larger.

As for the proposed sewer treatment plant that residents fear, Horton said it won’t stink, it won’t flood anyone’s home and it won’t devalue anyone’s property.

“This is a state of the art sewer treatment plant,” he said. “It’s not like the old ones.” Asked if he would consider running a sewer line into Cabot instead of building a sewer treatment plant, Horton said no.

“It costs too much to run a line to Cabot,” he said, adding that Cabot has problems with overflowing manholes, so it isn’t taking care of its own problems.

Asked if he will build his streets to Cabot’s standards, Horton said he didn’t think he has to because his subdivision was approved two years ago and he doesn’t intend to make it part of Cabot.

Mayor Williams said Tuesday that he thinks Horton does have to comply with city standards.

“We’re sending him notice this week that we will implement our planning jurisdiction because (his subdivision) is so close to our city limits,” Williams said.