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Don’t Penalize Martins Ferry

The fact that there are good reasons for many Ohio Environmental Protection Agency rules does not make it any easier for financially strapped communities — and their residents and businesses — to comply with them. OEPA officials deserve some credit for what often has been a very lenient attitude toward compliance.

But rules are rules and at some point, the OEPA will take action against municipalities failing to follow them.

Martins Ferry officials want to avoid that, and are beginning to undertake OEPA-mandated projects that have lain dormant for too long.

During a City Council meeting last week, Mayor John Davies, still relatively new in office, pointed out that Martins Ferry is years late in complying with five OPEA orders.

One, disconnection of downspouts from the city sewer system, was supposed to have been completed by Dec. 31, 2017, Davies said.

Renewed attention is being given to that mandate. “Residents need to know that if their downspouts go into the sewer line, they must be brought to the outside,” Water Superintendent Bill Suto said. He said city officials are “moving foward on that.”

Suto added, “Once we get started, we won’t stop — but we’re not going to (financially) break the sewer department, either.”

That is the responsible attitude toward meeting the OEPA requirements, of course. But will officials of the state agency see it that way?

We hope so. Again, they have been lenient for years, so they cannot be blamed for putting a limit on their patience.

But Martins Ferry officials are not merely ignoring the OEPA — even though they may not have taken its mandates seriously enough in the past. Now, it appears city officials plan to move forward — perhaps only a little at a time, but still toward compliance with the state agency’s orders.

As long as that progress continues, OEPA officials should not penalize Martins Ferry for failure to comply with the rules.

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