By Tim Cox
Celina and Mercer County officials often discuss water-related issues as both government bodies deal with various problems and concerns.
But a new sewer plant -- possibly a central sewer district -- is what local leaders should be talking about, Fanning/Howey Associates engineer Jared Ebbing said this week. A new sewer plant -- if properly placed -- would not only create needed treatment capacity, but also clear up some looming questions about the availability of water, Ebbing said during a meeting with county commissioners.
Commissioners agreed to seek a joint meeting with city officials to have preliminary discussions on long-range sewage plans. The two groups previously met in a series of dicussions on potentially forming a central water district. The city has put those plans on hold until water plant improvements are made to bring the city's water into compliance with EPA regulations.
Looking at additional sewer capacity, whether or not a central district is formed, is necessary to accommodate new economic growth, Ebbing said. He cited a proposed ethanol plant as a prime example why the area needs more wastewater treatment capacity.
Van Wert County, for example, has more than 2 million gallons of excess treatment capacity, Ebbing said. That infrastructure likely is one of the reasons Van Wert is among the finalists to land a new Honda production facility. Ebbing suggested county Community Development Director Larry Stelzer be a part of the joint sewer meetings.
"Without the proper infrastructure in place, you're never going to see the big economic development projects," Ebbing said.
If a sewer plant is built north of Celina, north of the continental divide between the Great Lakes and Ohio River watersheds, it would clear up a regulatory issue, Ebbing said. Due to stringent rules in the Great Lakes watershed, water cannot be legally diverted from north of the divide and discharged as treated waste into another watershed. The existing Celina water plant is on the south edge of the city, well south of the continental divide that snakes through the northern portion of town.
A permit can be sought for diversions of water, but the permitting process is expensive, long and not guaranteed to meet with success, local officials have said.
A sewer plant north of Celina would open up all areas around the city for future water exploration, Ebbing said. That is important as the city and county consider long-term possibilities for supplying water to city and county residents.