By Sean Rice
In celebration of National Drinking Water Week, local water quality officials are holding an open house at the Celina water treatment plant on Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Celina Water Superintendent Mike Sudman is taking the opportunity to show off a new pre-treatment system at the water plant that may solve Celina's drinking water problems.
Heather Buck, coordinator of the Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed Project, is planning exercises for children focusing on protecting the watershed area around the lake from pollution.
The public programs fit together because Celina draws its drinking water from the lake, and the watershed project works to educate the public about contaminated runoff reaching the lake. The Grand Lake St. Marys watershed includes the lake and areas south of the lake.
In theory, every drop of water that falls in a watershed can reach the watershed destination. So, a spilled quart of oil near St. Henry could wind up in Grand Lake St. Marys, which affects the water going to spigots in Celina. Sudman works every day to ensure water coming from Celina's faucets meets quality and taste standards. For years, Celina struggled with fishy-smelling water, before current treatments solved that problem.
Now Celina battles excessive levels of a chemical byproduct known as trihalomethanes (THMs) since the EPA required testing for the chemical in 1990. THMs are believed to contribute to the formation of bladder cancer and other intestinal problems.
High levels of organic material in the lake's water react with the chlorine used in treatment to form the THMs. A new pretreatment system using ion exchange is being pilot tested at the water plant to solve the problem. The system uses an Australian-developed poly-resin product that could effectively remove enough of the organic material from the source water to eliminate the THM problem.
Celina is negotiating with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to gain approval to use the new product. The EPA is forcing the city to permanently fix its problems with THMs, with a new plant or effective treatment.