By Tim Cox
Through the course of five public meetings held to discuss the city of Celina's water problems, it is clear residents are not ready to give up on switching the city's water source from Grand Lake to groundwater wells.
The groundwater issue has been talked about as much as the engineering study and proposed fixes to the city's water quality problems during the round of public meetings. Tuesday's meeting was no different.
City officials are pursuing a short-term fix to problems with trihalomethanes (THM) in the water by using granulated activated carbon (GAC) treatment. That estimated $2 million project along with another $1 million-$2 million in upgrades to the water plant are planned for the first phase of work, which could begin sometime next year.
City officials are under EPA findings and orders to correct the THM problem by November 2007 or face fines of up to $25,000 per day.
After reaching compliance, city officials have left their options open for how to proceed. They could continue working toward a proposed $14.5 million upgrade which includes treatment upgrades and physical renovations to the 1950s-era water plant. Many residents want to see city officials find an alternative source of water so the city can stop drawing water from the lake. The high levels of organic material in the lake water combine with the city's chlorination process to cause the THM problems.
City officials had spent more than $200,000 exploring groundwater wells to the north of town before learning that the Great Lakes Drainage Basin compact heavily restricts the city's ability to take water from north of a continental divide that snakes through the northern part of town.
"We were headed for a groundwater plant until last September," said Kent Bryan, the city's community development consultant.
It was September 2004 when the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) informed the city about the continental divide issue.
All five public meetings have been poorly attended but the people who do show up have definite ideas about how city officials should proceed. Discussions about the poor quality of the lake water and finding suitable groundwater have been common themes throughout the open forums.
ODNR officials would prefer the city switch to groundwater and have forced the city to investigate certain sources before renegotiating the city's lease to pull water from the lake. EPA officials have expressed no preference for a water source as long as the final product meets the agency's regulations.
Residents tend to side with ODNR officials.
Resident Thomas Chivers criticized the lake as a suitable water source, relying on past claims by others who said the lake is slowly returning to a wetlands. Within 30 years, the lake's depth will be inadequate to serve the city's needs, he predicted.
Frank Snyder, publisher of The Daily Standard, compared the lake to Nebraska's Platte River.
"Too thick to drink, too thin to plow," Snyder said.
City council member Ed Jeffries also agrees the lake is not the answer to the city's long-term water needs. Jeffries voted against the short-term GAC fix earlier this week simply because he believes it will seal the city's course of sticking with lake water when officials should be looking for suitable groundwater.