GALION – Galion’s drinking water contamination continues to stir concern as the water department continues work to rectify Ohio EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) violations.
According to the Ohio EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), however, residents “do not need to use an alternative water supply,” though they also advise those with health concerns consult their physicians. According to the EPA advisory: Drinking the contaminated water may lead to problems with their kidneys, liver, nervous system or have an increased risk of cancer, though studies are inconclusive.
“There is still a lot of uncertainty regarding any one individual’s risk when exposed to levels of disinfection byproducts above the maximum containment level,” states a fact sheet from the EPA.
Some violations have been issued for failures to adequately collect water samples, but some city water customers are concerned about the level of Total Trihalomethanes (TTHM) contaminating their drinking water, which they were most recently advised of, by the city, in their water bill.
Monitoring and responding to EPA concerns have been an issue for the city for a number of years.
The city has had TTHM violations at least since 2014. The federal TTHM standard for drinking water was 0.080 mg/L (milligrams per liter); Galion’s average level over four quarters, at that time, was 0.081 mg/L. The federal standard has not changed.
Now, however, at Galion, the average level of TTHM over the last four quarters was 0.083 mg/L at DS201 and 0.087 mg/L at DS202.
“I want to be regulated,” Mayor Thomas O’Leary said emphatically. “I’m the steward of the water. We need to make sure we’re fairly inspected and regulated.”
“What we’re doing is, a couple of things, we’re going through a Request for Proposal process. The interested proposers, the engineering consultants were at Railroad Street [mid-March].”
“CT consultants did the plan, that was rejected, on our behalf,” he continued. “So, what we’re going to do is pick a consulting engineer to actually do the engineering on the proposed fixes at the plant.”
The mayor’s office has responded to letters from the EPA regarding violations.
“My hope is most of it will be satisfied. There may be some more back and forth but we are trying to get our general plan approved by the EPA.”
The new engineers’ responsibility will be to design the components of the upgrade of the water plant that the county has committed to pay roughly $1 million, for those upgrades, out of their slice of ARPA dollars.”
“If you look at the plan,” O’Leary continued, “there’s a table that shows a $4 million cost. A council member said, ‘Well, there’s a $4 million fix.’ If you look at that table, it’s enough to fire the consultant over that. It had a nanofiltration system—a big dollar item. It [the first plan] had an ozone removal trial and then the capital cost of injecting ozone into the treated water to kill everything. Those are both real high dollar items. Admittedly, to understand everything else, I’m not that scientific, but the water leaves the plant and as it sits in the lines, that’s when it [TTHM] grows.”
After the initial plan was rejected, the mayor said he and the water department, under a recently-hired superintendent, are looking at other industry actions and recommendations.
“We need to get this plant running and do some things that are more mechanical than chemical or new technology. I think the service director and myself expect the water superintendent to be the technical expert.”
“What we will end up spending, ultimately to get rid of the TTHM, will be accomplished in that $1 million, or perhaps with an inflationary increase.”
O’Leary said, “Part of the solution to balance rates and necessary improvements is to look at our operating costs. What we have to do is see if there are ways to reduce our overhead in operations or keep it flat so it doesn’t increase and then any money you will ‘save’ by becoming more efficient then you apply that to debt that we incur.
“If the capital upgrades to become compliant with the EPA are more that the $1 million, my answer to you this afternoon [earlier this month] is that we would either use what remains in the city’s permanent improvement fund and/or incur whatever necessary debt locally.”
Some criticism of the efforts to reduce the TTHM has been described as wasting water due to the flushing.
“Our infrastructure, our distribution system is from a four million gallon-a-day plant. On a big day we’ll do 1.3 million, so we have so much excess capacity. We looked at, prior to submitting the general plan, the notion of what if we rebuild Railroad Street for a lower maximum daily use that would save us money. The conclusion was, no we can’t downsize the plant.
The engineers gave enough reasons for me to say uncle,” he said.
But when you look at the math of some of the things that were done before the crash, in the heyday of the city manager was they extended large water lines and they variously loop around the town. They built 12-inch loops and I think it was an expectation that Galion was going to grow. It was built far larger than was realistic.”
Rather than replace extensive water lines, yet reduce TTHM contaminants is to increase flushing.
O’Leary noted, “To increase the amount of flushing, which causes the people in that letter [letter sent to council], well they could have $10 million if they didn’t waste all that.’ To say that we’d have $10 million if we hadn’t flushed all this water is [ridiculous]. So we do have these deadheaded lines ‘waste’ a lot of water. We flush in order to keep the TTHM below the standard in kind of a tail-chasing exercise. Everyone, EPA, everyone, would agree that one way to manage this level is to flush water.”
Flushing was actually recommended by the EPA, but he said the EPA is also concerned about the city’s amount of water loss.
Another plan will be submitted to the EPA to mitigate the issue.