Get city sewer plan done this year

Six years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sued Lexington for violations of the Clean Water Act. This came as no surprise to the thousands of residents who had cleaned out basements awash in raw sewage, seen manholes overflow and witnessed repeated flooding.

Now, the city, acting on an agreement reached with the EPA to clean up our mess and settle this case, is close to completing one key element of the plan. It's called the Capacity Assurance Program.

As the name suggests, the aim of the program is to assure that the city will have the ability to handle any sewage created by new development or redevelopment before it taps into the sewer system.

While much of the city's obligation relates to building new sewer lines, pump stations and treatment plants to deal with the mess we already have, this is aimed at preventing the same thing from happening all over again.

A task force, which includes several council members, has been working for months to develop a CAP that achieves that goal but doesn't unduly burden developers or the city.

The whole council should move quickly to consider the task force's recommendations and enact them as city ordinances.

We will spare you the geekiest details, but suffice it say that the process has involved intensive research, hundreds of hours, thousands of pages of documents and charts and some very thoughtful discussion among task force members, representatives of several city departments, the development community and other citizens.

Later this month, the task force will hold its last meeting and complete the recommendations it will offer to the council.

Under the terms of Lexington's agreement with the EPA, legislative action by the council to adopt the program won't be required until early next year.

But the council should not wait that long. It should take up the recommendations of the task force and act on them this fall.

What's the hurry?

There are several reasons to move the program along, including the potential for severe fines if Lexington doesn't meet its deadlines. But the most pressing is that it could take months, if not years, for new council members to get up to speed on this complex material.

The council will have at least four new members after the fall election. Most critically, perhaps, 2nd District councilman Tom Blues, who chairs the task force, is not seeking re-election and so won't be on the council in the new year.

Infrastructure is tough business for elected officials. Usually it's expensive and complicated and citizens only really care about it when it doesn't work.

We have a council now that's done the heavy lifting of understanding these complex issues, passing the fees to clean them up and now sorting out how to prevent them in the future.

It should finish the job.