The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has given permission to a Leavittsburg church to install a new sewage treatment system, but whether the small house of prayer can afford to replace its outdated system remains up in the air.
If not, Good Shepherd Community Church pastor Dan Ellis says still on the table is the very real possibility of closing the church's doors and moving parishioners into a nearby garage to worship.
''You can't fight the EPA, you can't. The only thing you can do is be in compliance with them,'' Ellis said. ''It's an uphill climb, very uphill. Do we see a light at the end of the tunnel? Some days it feels that way; some days I just don't know what we are going to do.''
The church has been making an effort to comply since June 2012, when a test showed the system that was installed when the building was built in 1965 was discharging partially treated sewage and subsequently needed replaced.
They've been able to work through the process to the point so far of having the Ohio EPA issue an installation permit - done last month - and have taken other steps to reduce their footprint, like installing new high efficiency toilets and having their waste storage tank pumped every four to six weeks.
Notice from the Ohio EPA calls for the church to provide the state a proposed schedule for the upgrades, including specific dates for initiation and completion of construction, according to a Feb. 20 letter from the agency.
Also, the system must be operational by Nov. 1 ''for the fact they have this continued illicit discharge,'' said Ohio EPA spokesman Mike Settles. Should the system be installed by the deadline, Settles said he doesn't anticipate any enforcement action related to previous discharges.
Also, the church will be required to abandon the new system is public sewer is made available in the area.
Ellis said the cost to replace the system for the Eagle Creek Road building could be as high as $60,000 - a number he still says is too expensive. Some of the approximately $9,000 the church has raised so far has been spent on the restroom improvements and on tank cleaning fees, leaving them with between $6,000 to $7,000.
Plans are to continue fundraising and there's an effort under way to get a loan, using the church as collateral, Ellis said. A firm cost will be known when a contractor is brought into the project.