Franklin Co. neighborhood claims tap water undrinkable for decades

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Imagine living in your home with water you can't drink. Water that smells and stains anything it touches.

This is a reality for some homeowners in the western part of Franklin County. It’s a small section of more than 100 homes near Hague Avenue and Interstate 70 called Mon-E-Bak.

Resident Cheryl Hewitt said it’s been a problem since she moved in 10 years ago.

“The water is just nasty,” she said. “It smells like rotten eggs. It’s not drinkable.”

The water is so rich with iron, Hewitt said she uses chemicals to keep her clothes from getting ruined in the washing machine.

The neighborhood, Mon-E-Bak, is one of the poorest in Franklin County. The streets are lined with older homes with old septic tanks that leak into the underground water wells.

According to documents from the Franklin Township Board of Trustees, the wells are “antiquated, shallower than available water well guidelines and do not provide the necessary quality of water to meet the water demands. All of which pose a substantial cause for concern for the health and general well-being of area residents."

The septic systems are in a state of substantial deterioration and a source of groundwater contamination, according to Franklin County Public Health.

In 2011, the county hired a company to fix the septic tank issue. But a year later there was a problem.

The county said the company that did the work, Deer Creek Excavation, didn't do the work correctly. Shortly afterward the company filed bankruptcy.

A spokesperson for the county said “this has been an ongoing and frustrating project. In 2012, we discovered that the contractor's work was deficient. The county prosecutor is involved in an attempt to collect and recover the project costs."

In 2014, Franklin Township applied for $4 million in state loans to tap into city water lines. But it lost out to other projects.

Under Ohio law, in order to qualify for a zero-interest loan through the Ohio Publics Works Commission, applicants must meet certain criteria.

Officials said Franklin Township bid didn't score high enough. Of the 35 applicants, Mon-E-Bak ranked 19th.

Clean drinking water alone doesn't score high enough under the state's system, according to the Mid- Ohio Regional Planning Commission.

But building new bridges and repairing roads do because much of the loan money comes from the gas tax.

Meanwhile, people like Hewitt are demanding answers. She said no one should have to live this way.

“I think we expect more, I think we deserve more and I think we deserve something,” she said.

The county said it has resubmitted bids to re-do the sewer project. It hopes to announce a contractor by the end of this month or early August. It will cost county taxpayers $5.4 million.

As for getting back the money it originally spent on Deer Creek Excavation, the county said it's still trying to collect.