OTTAWA — Outdated facilities and equipment are set to cost local villages and cities noticeable amounts of money upgrading water treatment plants to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards.
During its Jan. 8 council meeting, Ottawa Village Council performed the first reading of an ordinance requesting the purchase of a second lime slaker, used in softening processed water, at a cost of nearly $172,000. The old slakers were original equipment installed when the water treatment plant first went operational in 1972, and replacing them was a mandate given to the Village of Ottawa in 2016, according to Doug Schroeder, the village’s water treatment plant director.
While some equipment at the water plant has been upgraded, most of the major equipment — the ventilation system, motor control, carbon feeder system and others — are 40 or more years old, according to Schroeder.
“A lot of this equipment is aging and not working properly,” he said.
Schroeder said the employees who work at the water treatment plant are exceptional at fixing the old equipment when it breaks down and getting more use out of it. He admitted, however, that it gets more difficult as time goes by. The last time one of the lime slakers broke down, a part had to be ordered from eBay, according to Wastewater Treatment Plant Director Russel Bales, who is also the backup director for the water treatment plant.
It’s like when factories will fix and upgrade old equipment to get more use out of it, Ottawa Mayor Dean Meyer said. The equipment at the water treatment plant has reached the point where repairs and upgrades are no longer plausible and they need to be replaced.
Schroeder said the cost estimate to meet the EPA requirements will total approximately $4.5 million.
Delphos also dealing with mandates
Delphos received a similar list of requirements recently in the form of an Asset Management Plan, Safety Service Director Shane Coleman said. The plan is part of Ohio Senate Bill 2 passed in 2017.
“It (the bill) says a public water system will represent the technical, managerial and financial capability of the system to comply with the rules of SB2,” said Coleman.
Basically, it’s an inventory and evaluation of each treatment systems physical assets, he said. It requires each facility to provide information on their capacity projections, how much water they can provide and projections on increased production. It also requires facilities to replace any outdated equipment and maintain equipment that doesn’t need replaced, and it requires facilities be upgraded to be Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) compatible.
SCADA allows facilities directors to keep track of functionality from their phone or home computer in real time, Schroeder said, demonstrating on his phone. The program also allows directors to alter settings remotely as well.
“Basically, we’re looking at our infrastructure, especially concerning water,” he said.
Delphos built a new wastewater facility in 2006 and a new water treatment facility in 2007. Despite that, the city is still looking at spending approximately $50,000 this year to meet EPA mandates, Coleman said. There is funding available through the EPA with the potential to have $10,000 of the cost being forgiven.
St. Marys struggling with structural issues
St. Marys is having a problem similar to Ottawa, its plant having gone online in 1942, according to Water Treatment Plant Director Jeff Thompson. While the plant is still operational and producing water that adheres to EPA standards, the facility is literally falling apart, he said.
“The concrete walls and tanks are on the verge of complete failure,” said St. Marys Mayor Patrick McGowan. “(The previous mayor and city council) were told in the early 1990s to build this plant and they ignored it. They didn’t spend any money on infrastructure at all.”
Thompson said building a new plant wasn’t an EPA requirement and was, instead, a recommendation. After a recent inspection, the EPA informed him the plant couldn’t be saved. There was just too much erosion to the building and the equipment was too out of date. Building a new plant was the best option, he said.
They are drilling the new well sometime this upcoming week, Thompson said. City Council is hoping to have the bid out by late February at the latest so they can begin construction on the new plant by late spring or early summer. While the new plant is under construction, which he hopes only takes two years at the most, the plan is to keep the old water treatment plant operational.
“The preliminary estimate for the new plant is $21 million,” Thompson said.
Thompson added that the new plant will be state of the art and completely SCADA compatible.
To meet their EPA requirements, Ottawa is raising its water rates by 7 percent for the next three years, Ottawa Clerk-Treasurer Barbara Hermiller said.
“It might increase more depending on how much is needed to meet EPA standards,” she said.
The village is also looking at borrowing money it may need and looking into whether the village is eligible for grants or assistance through the EPA, she said.
Despite the costs villages and cities face to meet EPA water quality standards, plant directors and local officials all seem to agree that it’s worth it. Schroeder has embraced the requirements for the Ottawa water treatment facility and is already ahead of the EPA’s schedule. The walls and table in his office are covered with EPA regulations he needs to meet, and his plans are to do so.
“It’s our responsibility to create a safe and quality product for the public,” he said, adding the EPA regulations help them do that.
“You can hardly plan for a $4.5-million upgrade,” Meyer said. “We’ve got a lot of good people out there we can count on to keep an eye on our dollar.”
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362