By Tim Cox
The Celina water plant will switch to round-the-clock operations as the city pilot tests a treatment option that is expected to bring the water into compliance with state regulations.
The granulated activated carbon (GAC) testing will begin early next month, Safety-Service Director Jeff Hazel said. The carbon pellets will be used to pull out the organic material in the water that reacts with chlorine to form trihalomethanes (THM). The city's THM levels regularly far exceed Ohio EPA standards.
The GAC is a proven solution to the city's problems, but the pilot testing -- expected to last three months or so -- is necessary to determine what form of carbon works best for Celina's water and at what rate it will be consumed. Consumption is key because it will largely dictate annual operational costs after the technology is implemented full-time.
City officials are virtually locked in to sticking with GAC treatment, no matter what the costs. They are under EPA orders to bring the water into compliance in less than two years or face fines of up to $25,000 per day.
Getting GAC implemented could take well more than a year, including designing the structure for the new equipment, getting EPA approval for the plans and construction and installation, Hazel said. City council members will be asked at Monday's regular meeting to approve the purchase of a $20,000 piece of equipment needed for the GAC pilot test. The equipment would still be able to be used after GAC is permanently implemented, Hazel said.
The online Total Organic Content (TOC) analyzer will allow city water department employees to do necessary water testing in-house. The GAC system requires about 30 tests a day that would cost $600 to carry out at a private laboratory. Based on those costs, the equipment should pay for itself in barely more than a month.
While the water plant is operating 24 hours per day for the pilot test, residents could see an improvement in water quality. This will happen, even though GAC-treated water won't be distributed into the water system.
The improvement is simply a result of water being able to remain longer in the treatment process. The plant now runs on a 16-hour day.
City officials tried running the plant 24 hours per day a few years ago to see if it improved the THM situation. There were improvements, but not enough to meet EPA requirements, Hazel said.
"Absolutely, when you give more time for the treatment process, there's going to be improvement, but probably only minimal," Hazel said.
After the pilot test, water plant personnel will return to their regular shifts. The plant again will return to 24-hour operations when GAC is permanently implemented.
Implementing GAC is expected to cost about $1.5 million, and city officials plan another $1 million in equipment improvements to the existing plant.