By Tim Cox
Celina city officials have enlisted the help of U.S. Rep. John Boehner in the city's continuing struggles with water issues.
City administration officials specifically asked the Congressman for financial assistance in dealing with two issues, including the city's efforts to bring its drinking water into compliance with EPA regulations and help in improving the water quality in Grand Lake.
Boehner, a Republican from West Chester, had been informed about the city's water plight through his aides, but Tuesday's visit to Celina marked the first face-to-face meeting with city leaders. Mayor Sharon LaRue, Safety-Service Director Jeff Hazel and consultant Kent Bryan participated in the meeting.
Boehner agreed to do what he can to help, but made no firm promises, LaRue said.
"We wanted to make him aware of some of the things we are dealing with. We got some very positive feedback. It sounds promising," LaRue said. Celina officials informed Boehner about a couple of troubling issues they have encountered in their efforts to fix the city's water problems.
One of those problems is a heavily regulated continental divide that snakes through the north part of the city. The divide is the border between the Great Lakes watershed and the Ohio River drainage basin. Because of rules implemented by Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces, it would difficult -- maybe impossible -- for the city to draw groundwater from anywhere north of that divide. The watershed rules prohibit water being diverted from that watershed and released into another watershed.
Because the city's sewer plant is located well to the south of the continental divide, the issue becomes an almost overwhelming obstacle to switching to groundwater. No adequate source of groundwater has been located south of the continental divide, except for within a thin swath of land east of the city in the state Route 29 corridor.
City officials had been prepared to make the switch from the current use of lake water to groundwater until Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials informed the city a year ago about the continental divide regulations.
Being able to show Boehner the map with the divide marked on it was helpful in conveying the city's point, LaRue said. Bryan has previously said the city could be able to use the continental divide issue to leverage grant money to build new water and sewer facilities north of the divide or to secure money for some other solution.
City officials also informed Boehner about their difficulty in obtaining funding from the U.S. Rural Development office. The program serves cities under 10,000 but the latest Census figures show Celina has 303 people over that limit.
Celina officials are preparing a pilot test as a precursor to installing granulated activated carbon filtration at the plant. Although the technology is expected to bring the water into EPA compliance, the aging water plant still needs millions of dollars in upgrades in the coming years and city officials continue to look for alternative long-range plans.
Boehner also heard about the city's proposal for mitigation efforts to improve the quality of water in the lake. Bryan has proposed a program that would involve partnering with other entities to build wetlands, sediment traps and other natural water treatment measures along Coldwater Creek. The creek is the second-largest tributary to the lake and lies the closest to the intake pipe where water is sucked from the lake into the city's water plant.