By Sean Rice
Celina City Council on Monday approved hiring a new engineering firm to evaluate the city's drinking water situation -- again.
The city in 2001 hired BBS, a Columbus engineering firm, to evaluate the water plant for approximately $20,000 but the results were skewed toward the end result of a new membrane treatment system.
Water Superintendent Mike Sudman said the BBS report was more of a review of all equipment in the water plant, and it lacked the depth needed to make a decision. This new firm will evaluate all research done by the city and all options available to reuse the plant.
Also the BBS report showed treatment plant options ranging as high as $13 million. Officials are hopeful this new firm can find a solution for as low as $4 million.
Celina is under orders from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to overhaul the city water treatment plant to provide a permanent fix to the city's water contamination problem. Celina has been in violation of EPA law for a number of years because of high trihalomethanes (THMs) in the finished drinking water. The EPA believes THMs cause bladder, stomach and other cancers. So Council members ap-proved paying the Boston-area firm Metcalf & Eddy $130,000 for the study, which should give the city a direction to solve the water issue within six to nine months. An extra $20,000 was included in the ordinance to allow for incidental costs that may arise.
Metcalf & Eddy is internationally known for its expertise in water and sewer treatment projects. The company is known for a multi-billion dollar sewer job in Boston and for other projects, such as turning ocean water into drinking water.
"They were very impressed with their abilities and feel this is the best way to go," council member Collin Bryan said of administration's decision to choose Metcalf & Eddy.
The company was called in after city officials learned plans to use water from newly dug wells in a new or updated treatment plant were killed by an obscure watershed law. A continental divide runs through Celina, sending all runoff in the north toward the Great Lakes and runoff from the south of Celina heads toward the Mississippi River.
A Great Lakes protection law, which two Canadian provinces agreed to, prevents large sums of water being taking from one side of the divide and dumped on the other. Celina test wells were dug north of the line and the existing sewer plant is south of the divide.
Celina has been drawing and treating water from Grand Lake St. Marys for more than 50 years, and it appears that may continue for years to come. Metcalf & Eddy will be assessing all treatment options currently available to make Grand Lake water drinkable.
"Have we 100 percent exhausted our ground water options on this side of the divide," member Denny Smith asked. "I'm not sure that we have."
Development consultant Kent Bryan said the high-producing well area discovered is off limits and not enough lines are south of the line to develop enough high-producing wells. He said, for example, Coldwater has more than two dozen low-producing wells.
"We need to make a 50-year decision," Bryan said, noting that wells eventually go dry.
City Council President Bill Sell asked if it is possible to dig wells in Grand Lake St. Marys. Bryan said that was looked into, and it would be difficult and expensive to do logistically. Also, under state code, the lake water surrounding the well shaft would be viewed as a contaminate.
"To be honest, what we need to work on is longterm efforts of keeping contaminants from getting into the lake," Bryan said of the city's future of drinking lake water.
"I'm disappointed as everybody, but there's not much we can do with ground water," Smith said before voting to hire Metcalf & Eddy.