By Sean Rice
Celina's sewer department will go another year without renovations and additions as requested by Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, due to the city's tight budget.
The EPA eventually will force the city to create a storm water maintenance program, which is an "inevitable necessity," wastewater superintendent Mike Lenhart said. The EPA also is asking for a larger lab area at the sewer treatment plant on Schunck Road.
Lenhart outlined some of the wastewater department's needs Monday night during a Celina City Council public hearing on the 2005 city utilities budget.
Celina City Council already had the first of three readings to pass the city budget, at $26.2 million total. Council is expected to vote on the budget two more times on Feb. 14 and 28.
The wastewater department budget is currently set at $1,654,769, which is higher than what it cost to run the department in 2004, at $1,489,710. Council members typically budget with a budget-expense cushion of 6 to 10 percent. "I groomed a few things out of there, as you requested," Lenhart told council members.
Safety-Service Director Jeff Hazel, the supervisor of all city department heads, said the city's storm sewers receive no regular maintenance. The street department crew cleans storm tiles as problems arise, "when they have time."
The main tool for cleaning storm sewers is the city's Vactor, a $100,000 vacuum mainly used for leaf pick-up.
The wastewater department also has the recurring problem of runoff water finding its way into the wastewater system. The city has separate lines for sewer water, which goes to the treatment plant, and storm water, which goes to Grand Lake St. Marys.
Storm water can infiltrate the sewer system through manhole covers, faulty pump stations and from leaking residential basements, where submergible sump pumps send storm water into the sewer. Extra water infiltrating the sewer system increases sewer treatment costs, and no user is paying for the added treatment.
Lenhart told council the EPA may ask, as soon as next year, for an expansion of the sewer plant.
The budget for the drinking water treatment department currently is set lower, $1,807,935, than last year's expenses of $1,845,944.
Hazel said the water budget is lower than 2004 because well exploration money and pilot testing money was included last year. But money will continue being spent this year on researching an upgrade to the water treatment plant aimed at bringing Celina's drinking water in compliance with state regulations.
The EPA has ordered Celina to solve the problem of high trihalomethanes (THMs) in the drinking water. THMs are believed to cause intestinal cancers over a lifetime of exposure.
So far, $150,000 is budgeted this year for an expansive study of the city options in continuing to use Grand Lake St. Marys as the city's drinking water source.