By Sean Rice
Celina could receive a $750,000 gift of federal money to fix the city water plant, if the full U.S. Congress and President George Bush sign off on a bill.
Ohio Republican U.S. Senators Mike DeWine and George Voinovich announced $750,000 for Celina was included in the Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill.
In 2002 Celina was fined $10,000 and ordered by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to replace or retrofit the water treatment plant after 10 years of contaminated water tests.
City officials may have to wait a couple more months to see if the $750,000 stipend remains in the final approved version of the Senate bill. Voinovich's press agent Scott Milburn said he is optimistic the bill will run its course before the year ends, with Celina's money included.
"Now that the bill has gone this far, the senator is very hopeful that it will remain in the bill the rest of the way," Milburn told The Daily Standard. Celina Mayor Sharon LaRue said city council member Angie King is responsible for getting Celina's story to the ears of Washington legislators. King stopped in DeWine's office in Washington while on vacation this year.
LaRue said a representative from DeWine's office called in March and sent out paper work for city officials to complete. City officials told DeWine's office about Celina's long struggle with trihalomethanes (THMs) in the water and with tight budgets. The Ohio EPA believes the high amounts of THMs in the water can contribute to stomach cancers and other gastric diseases.
"It is wonderful, we are ecstatic about it," the mayor said this morning of the possible money. "This is a line item from the big guys, and it's terrific that they are thinking about little Celina."
City officials have been investigating building a new water plant or switching treatment options to cure Celina's issue of high THM levels in the finished drinking water. Costs to fix the water have ranged from nearly $1 million to $12 million.
The EPA's original orders in 2002 basically directed the city to build a new plant using new membrane treatment technology. The process forces water through a membrane, blocking nearly all impurities, including hardness. Through discussion, city officials loosened the orders slightly to allow for alternative fixes. Hundreds of thousands of dollars already have been spent on digging test wells, required engineering work and laboratory tests for the varied processes.
Celina Water Superintendent Mike Sudman said he is not sure if the federal money can be used to retrofit the existing water plant or construct a new plant. Either way he is excited the federal government stepped in to help.
"We were pretty high on the EPA's list," he said.