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Thursday, April 26th, 2007

EPA likely to give Celina a reprieve

By Timothy Cox
Ohio EPA officials are not expected to hold the city's feet to the fire regarding a Nov. 7 deadline to bring the city's water into compliance with state regulations, Celina officials said this week.
They are in the final planning stages of adding granular activated carbon (GAC) treatment to the city's current treatment system. The carbon material is expected to lower the levels of trihalomethanes (THM) in the water to within acceptable limits.
Excessively high THM levels is what sparked the EPA to hand down findings and orders several years ago, forcing the city to act. THMs are formed from organic material in the water reacting with chlorine over time.
City officials were in Columbus again this week tying up loose ends on the water project. The city needs EPA approval of the plans before construction can begin. The EPA also is helping the city finance the project through a low-interest loan program.
"We're getting them the information, and they're cooperating with us," city development consultant Kent Bryan said. "Things seem to be moving ahead."
Councilman June Scott asked Bryan directly if the city will miss the EPA-imposed deadline. The original findings and orders called for daily fines of $25,000 for missing the compliance date.
Bryan said he believes EPA officials are not looking at Nov. 7 as an absolute deadline.
"We've already got some indications that they are looking beyond that date," Bryan said. "They realize we are moving as quickly as we can."
Some city officials already have conceded the city will miss the November deadline, while others hold out some hope that the city will at least come close to the target date.
Construction is expected to take six months or so and bids could be sought as early as next week. If a contractor started June 1 and spent six months on the job, the work would not be completed until the end of November.
The city has a $500,000 grant through Congress to help pay for the estimated $4 million project. The rest will be financed through the EPA loan program with the debt retired through an anticipated increase in city water rates.
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