Marietta council updated on Ohio EPA water compliance concerns

MARIETTA — Water Superintendent Jeff Kephart and Project Manager Eric Lambert updated Marietta City Council Wednesday on drinking water regulation compliance concerns from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Kephart explained that a recent sanitary survey performed by the Ohio EPA at the beginning of June of the city’s water plant noted numerous roof leaks, aged chains and equipment in the sludge scraping system, cracks and deterioration in one tank and a soil slip behind another tank.

“We’ve been advocating since 2014 to fix these known issues,” explained Kephart. “These weren’t a surprise but if we proceed with the plan to build a new plant then we don’t have to replace this equipment. The EPA wants a timeframe with explanations on a solution but if we just address these issues (instead of building the planned new facility) that’s a couple million dollars that could have gone into an upgraded system.”

Kephart clarified that none of the issues identified put Marietta water users in any danger at the moment because while cracks and deterioration have been identified, nothing is broken or impeding adequate filtration. Problems with the drinking water could occur if those problems become more severe and the components break down entirely.

Lambert explained that the city is on task to select a design support firm for that long-range project of a new plant by year’s end.

“Construction of the new facility would hopefully begin in 2020 and be completed by the end of 2021,” Kephart explained in a letter responding to the Ohio EPA’s concerns. “The construction of the new (reverse osmosis) plant would eliminate the need to address and make costly repairs to the violations.”

Lambert also explained to council Wednesday that the plant’s main filtration components have outlived their expected service lives.

He said that the most critical component of the system, known as Plant 1, was built between 1938 and 1939.

“That’s lasted 80 years as a lime-soda ash treatment which first started by using river water,” he said. “Then Plant 2 was built in 1974, but you have to understand that you always have to maintain and replace along the way… but the last upgrade to the plants was in 1997 with an upgrade to the electrical and (Supervisory control and data acquisitions) system which was about a $5 million investment.”

The city water treatment operation serves approximately 8,300 households and businesses in the Marietta area and is outdated in how it treats water, according to Kephart.

“It’s old-school technology,” he said. “We’re looking to the future and concerned about also removing C8 and nitrates which we can’t remove with our current treatment. Most other water plants have already switched to the reverse osmosis process.”

Kephart also explained that while it’s too early in the planning process for a full engineer’s estimate for a new plant, payments on that planned construction wouldn’t begin to come due until 2023.