A situation in Mozart is enough to make some people throw up - literally, not figuratively. The sight, smell and thought of pools of raw sewage in streets and seeping down hillsides is not one for weak stomachs.
But lack of a central sewage treatment system is a reality for 300 to 400 homes in Mozart, which lies in both Marshall and Ohio counties. Officials say the problem dates back to the 1920s and 1930s, when a property developer chose to build homes without septic systems. He "opted to run sewage directly over the hill," Marshall County Health Department Administrator Ronda Francis told our reporter.
Since then some residents of the area have installed their own private sewage treatment systems. But over the years, many of those systems have failed. Effluent from some homes is simply piped away and into ditches or over hillsides. Raw sewage sometimes flows out onto Mozart streets and onto adjoining property owners' land.
An attempt was made to correct the problem during the 1980s. But Francis explained the plan did not receive state Public Service Commission approval because some homeowners refused to participate.
A new proposal to resolve the problem is being planned, according to Marshall County Commissioner Jason "Jake" Padlow. It involves extending sewer lines to the affected homes in Mozart and connecting them to the Wheeling sewage treatment plant.
About $9 million would be needed to complete the project, according to current estimates. Padlow said state funding to help complete the work will be sought.
It is a complex situation with no easy answers. For example, some homeowners who have invested thousands of dollars in private treatment systems or leach beds may not want to spend more to connect to a central sewage disposal network. Providing their systems meet public health standards, they may not have to be required to do so.
Clearly local and state governments need to devise a community-wide solution. Officials in both Marshall and Ohio counties should continue working to that end. Once they have a plan, the state should provide assistance to eliminate what clearly is a major threat to public health.