In a move toward building a new sewage treatment plant on 92 acres just west of Granville and south of Alexandria, the Southwest Licking Community Water and Sewer District has filed a request with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to discharge treated water into a stream known as Moots Run.

That stream flows into Raccoon Creek, which helps recharge the downstream wellfield from which Granville and Alexandria obtain their drinking water. 

In addition to concerns about how the discharge of treated wastewater might affect water quality in the creek, local officials have concerns about how the treatment plant, and the utility’s plans to also provide drinking water in the area, would affect growth and development in Granville, Monroe and St. Albans townships.

Jim Roberts, executive director of the Southwest Licking Community Water and Sewer District, said SWLCWSD is designing a plant with a preliminary estimated cost of $85 million to $90 million and the capacity to treat 3 million gallons a day, with the potential to expand the plant in the future. 

The Southwest Licking Water and Sewer District recently purchased about 100 acres (most of which is outlined in in blue-green on this map) with plans to build water- and sewage-treatment plants on the site. The purchased happened in 2023, and the district’s announcement about its plans raised concerns in St. Albans and Granville townships. Credit: Licking County auditor's website

He said the district bought farmland last year in St. Albans Township bordered by Morse, Outville and General Griffin roads, and immediately adjacent to Rt. 161, for $4.6 million to serve development in the Rt. 161 corridor. The earliest a treatment plant on that site could be operational would be 2027, Roberts said. 

Of particular interest at this point, he said, is serving properties to the west in fast-growing Jersey Township, which includes the New Albany International Business Park, where Intel is building a $20 billion computer-chip manufacturing complex.

It’s no secret that where water and sewer lines are planted, development typically grows. And officials in Alexandria, Granville, Johnstown and the surrounding townships have said repeatedly that they would be concerned about their ability to manage growth consistent with their comprehensive development plans if they don’t control the water and sewer services in those areas.

And officials in those jurisdictions –  including Granville, Monroe and St. Albans townships – have been talking with each other about a joint water and sewer service district in those areas. They also are talking with Roberts and his team at SWLCWSD about what water and sewer service in western Licking County might look like in the future. Another meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 15.

They are also part of a larger, regional conversation with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, which was contracted by the Ohio EPA to update sewer-service-area boundaries in Licking and Delaware counties that were last updated more than a decade ago – long before the development boom in western Licking County.

With that in mind, Granville Village Manager Herb Koehler said it might be premature for SWLCWSD to move forward with construction of a sewage-treatment facility in St. Albans Township.

He said the last service-area boundary update “gave Southwest Licking all of St. Albans and all of Jersey Township and all of Monroe Township. But when I say ‘gave it to them,’ it was designated for Southwest Licking, but it needed the county commissioners to approve it.” 

The Licking County Commissioners did so in 2022, expanding the SWLCWSD service area by nearly 10,000 acres to 18,182 acres west of Granville Township.

“Our understanding from the EPA is that (Granville’s) cooperation agreement with Johnstown and Alexandria is considered a viable (sewer-service) provider and could very well drive a boundary change in our favor,” Koehler said. “We’re not just pushing a rock uphill. We are a recognized entity in this space.”

Given the recently initiated process of updating service-area boundaries, he said, “It would make sense to me for the EPA to issue a moratorium on new permits until the (service-area boundaries) question is answered.”

In Johnstown, City Manager Sean Staneart shares that sentiment. 

“With such a tremendous financial risk for all involved, I would heavily recommend hitting the pause button on further engineering and plant design,” he said in an email. “Especially since there are currently sewer plants with capacity roughly 1 1/2 miles to the west (Alexandria) and 3 1/2 miles to the east (Granville) of the proposed facility.” 

This is Moots Run, looking north from a bridge on Moots Run Road near Outville Road. The Southwest Licking Community Water and Sewer District proposes to build a sewage treatment facility on the hill in the upper right corner of the photo. It also proposes discharging treated wastewater into this stream, which flows into Raccoon Creek. Credit: Julia Lerner

He said a pause would allow the Ohio EPA to conclude its work and give all parties involved time to collaborate and develop a fiscally responsible path forward.

“I believe SWLCWSD was doing what it thought was best at the time with the information they had when considering the construction of a sewer facility,” he wrote. 

“The construction of a plant in that area does concern me,” Staneart wrote. “However, we are not past the point of no return. Over the last year, many elected leaders throughout Licking County have had the opportunity to gain a deeper awareness on how widespread sewer & water can negatively impact and exacerbate development pressures in this area.”

Staneart said he is “hopeful we can all find a collaborative plan which keeps Licking County a place we’re all proud to call home.”

Roberts said the immediate focus of SWLCWSD is getting sewer service to Jersey Township, where rapid development is underway.

“I think everyone is thinking we’d be the service provider for that area, and then along the 161 corridor,” he said about his utility’s proposed Raccoon Creek Wastewater Treatment Center in St. Albans Township. “And there could be some movement in service areas within the (territory Alexandria, Granville and Johnstown want to serve), but this plant would still be needed for Jersey Township service.”

Roberts said if the permitting and design processes go as he hopes, SWLCWSD would apply for a permit to install the plant in December 2024, seek bids for the project in 2025 and construction would take two years, so he anticipates it could be operational in 2027 or 2028.

“Our intention is to meet or exceed” the requirements of the EPA for treating sewage and discharging treated water into local streams, and that his utility will continue to meet and talk with its neighbors about service areas.

Alan Miller writes for, the nonprofit news organization of Denison University’s Journalism program, which is funded by the Mellon Foundation and donations from readers.

Alan Miller

Alan Miller teaches journalism and writes for, the nonprofit news organization of Denison University's Journalism Program. He is the former executive editor of The Columbus Dispatch and former Regional Editor for Gannett's 21-newsroom USAToday Network Ohio.