By Tim Cox
Celina City Council members have not entirely given up hope on switching the city's drinking water source from Grand Lake to groundwater wells.
The issue was a common theme at this week's city council utilities committee meeting, where council members asked numerous questions and posed some creative ideas for tapping groundwater.
The issue is not as simple as drilling a well because Celina straddles the continental divide between the Great Lakes watershed and the Ohio River watershed. Because of rules governing the Great Lakes drainage basin, the city cannot pump water from that watershed and release it back into the Ohio River watershed, where the city's sewer plant is located on the south edge of town.
The city already spent two years investigating the groundwater issue before learning from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources about the continental divide issue. Still, it is a common question from constituents, councilman June Scott said.
Councilman Ed Jeffries asked why the city could not use some test wells drilled by the county along the state Route 29 corridor east of the city or drill their own wells in the same area. The county's test wells are located barely south of the continental divide, so could feasibly be used. However, there are other issues to consider, said water Superintendent Mike Sudman and Kent Bryan, the city's community development consultant.
There is no evidence those wells could produce enough water for the city, so other wells in the same area likely would be necessary, Sudman said. Furthermore, the area is located in a burgeoning industrial park and the same general area county officials are targeting as the potential site for an ethanol plant. The R.J. Corman railroad line also runs close to the county wells.
Any sort of train derailment or industrial spill could compromise the integrity of the wells, city officials said. Additionally, EPA regulations require a 600-foot diameter around the wells that is clear of underground sewer pipes and free of land application of fertilizer or pesticides.
There is a limited area to drill wells east of the city because the strip of land between the continental divide and the lake shore is narrow. Some council members asked if a groundwater well could be drilled through the bottom of the lake.
"The lake tests positive for coliform and e.coli every day," Sudman said.
That could present a problem if lake water seeped into the groundwater well because a treatment plant for groundwater would not be able to deal with the organic-laden lake water, he said. Other operations and maintenance issues also would be factors with a well in the middle of the lake, he said.
Initial studies of underground rock formations south of town also do no look promising for producing the quantity and quality of water the city needs, city officials said.
After the city satisfied the EPA by bringing its water into compliance with regulations, city officials could explore the groundwater issue again, Bryan said.
In fact, he recommended the city eventually apply for a permit to divert water from the Great Lakes watershed into the city water system. To get that permit, the city would need the approval of the governors of eight states and the leaders of two Canadian provinces. City officials also would have to agree to pipe treated wastewater back into the Great Lakes basin. New groundwater treatment technology also would be needed.
Accomplishing that could be cost-prohibitive, if not impossible. Any governor could veto the permit without explanation.
However, the city's unique situation as a straddling community along the continental divide could give it some leverage for federal grant money.
"It's handcuffed us," Bryan said. "We deserve federal grant money."