By Sean Rice
Celina has received a new exclusive offer from a water treatment company that could possibly solve the city’s drinking water contamination problem quickly, and at a fraction of the cost of building a new treatment plant.
Celina Water Superintendent Mike Sudman told five city council members the news at a utilities committee meeting Wednesday night. The meeting was called to answer questions about a pending pilot test on water treatment technology using membrane filtration.
But Sudman recommended delaying the membrane pilot test, to instead quickly conduct a smaller-scale pilot test on the most recent treatment system in discussion: ion exchange.
A representative from Orcia Watercare, based in Kentucky, offered to bring a MIEX brand, portable treatment facility to Celina that would serve as a pretreatment unit before water travels to the current treatment plant.
Sudman said company representative Beth Hamm guaranteed the treatment would work. In the deal, Celina would rent a unit for $150,000 per year and the MIEX company would have a place to showcase the treatment system’s effectiveness. Celina also would need to provide one time startup costs near $220,000, but Sudman said he would like to negotiate the costs further.
The cost of a new plant could top $12 million. Under the proposal discussed Wednesday, council members surmised that water rates would not have to be immediately raised to do the MIEX treatment.
Celina is under strict orders from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fix the problem of excessive levels of trihalomethanes (THMs), chemicals that are believed to cause stomach-area cancers. The city negotiated a detailed timeline that plots when the city conducts engineering studies, well exploration, pilot testing and plant construction.
A section in the timeline, which passes in July, allows the city to take steps to bring the water quality into compliance without a complete rebuild. July is also the deadline for Celina to commit to a membrane water treatment pilot test, which will take most of a year to complete. The membrane water treatment process would be used if a new plant was built.
Sudman said the pilot test for MIEX (which stands for Magnetized Ion EXchange) can be completed in five weeks. That is because MIEX will be used as a pretreatment and not a completely new treatment system, such as membrane.
“This may get us into compliance, and out from under the (EPA) orders, and buy us a couple of years,” Sudman told the committee.
Sudman explained that Celina’s latest THM rate leaving the plant is .095 milligrams per liter (mg/l), while the state law requires the water test no higher than .080 mg/l anywhere in the system. When the water reaches the furthest point in the system, THM rates are at the highest level, due to the nature of the chemical forming in chlorine. The most recent reading at RJ Corman, one of the furthest sites, was .390 mg/l.
Sudman reported that Hamm reduced the level down to .012 mg/l during laboratory jar testing, which is well below the state limits.
Sudman said the severe nature of Celina’s water, which is drawn from Grand Lake St. Marys, is a challenge for treatment companies and MIEX could showcase their product by solving Celina’s problem.
The ion exchange process uses no chemical or additives. Lake water would go directly into the MIEX unit where magnetized balls of resin draw the negative ions out of the water, which hold in the dissolved organic particles. Then the water would enter Celina’s lime softening plant, where the current system removes the suspended particles from the water. Not enough dissolved organic material is removed from the water in the current treatment system, which is the main component to THM formation.
Sudman said he is confident the EPA will go along with the MIEX fix, if it works, because EPA officials directed the city toward MIEX treatment. He urged council members to continue working toward a new well water-supplied plant, even though it could be 15 years before one is needed.
“At this point we don’t think we need to be looking at that (a membrane treatment facility) until this new technology disproves itself,” Sudman said.
“The end result is all we care about here: good clean drinking water,” council member Angie King said, echoing the sentiments of her colleagues.
Sudman said an MIEX contract will be presented prior to the next council meeting on April 12. And if the process is used, the public can have a tour of the facility in May, during national drinking water week.