Water tank dispute

A Pittsburgh-based company intends to work with the city of Marietta to iron out an issue that has resulted in more than doubling the cost of a $131,980 water solids contact tank paint job performed late last summer, despite denying there was a problem earlier this month.

“We want the opportunity to resolve this issue with the city as they are one of our clients and we want them to remain that way,” said Daniel Adley, chief executive officer for KTA-Tator, Inc.

The city contracted with KTA-Tator to perform an assessment on the water plant’s solids contact tank prior to painting the structure earlier this year. Part of that contract requested the company to provide a recommendation of the type of paint that could be used on the project.

“We typically ask that they recommend at least three brands from which the painting contractor can choose,” explained Eric Lambert, project manager with the city engineering department.

KTA recommended the three types of paint to American Star Painting and Coatings Company of Marietta, painting contractor for the solids contact tank project. Two of the recommended paints were certified by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) for use in tanks that hold potable water, but one was not, and that was the product American Star chose to use for the project.

Lambert said that paint, Ameron 253, was supposed to be white, but within a couple days of application the material had turned a light brownish-yellow color, referred to as an “amine blush.”

He said an amine blush is not uncommon with some paint products, but he thought it unusual that the blush had appeared so quickly during the contact solids tank painting project.

“I asked a local consultant about it and they looked up Ameron 253 and discovered the paint was not NSF certified for use with potable water,” Lambert said, noting that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency requires NSF-approved paint for all storage units that come in contact with water that will be used for drinking.

Lambert said the Ameron 253 paint contained volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that could leach out of the paint and into the water at the solids contact tank.

“Our water treatment plant is set up to remove any environmental contaminants (leaves, insects, other natural organic debris), but our system doesn’t remove VOCs,” said Jeff Kephart, the city’s water superintendent.

He noted that VOCs have been detected in one area of the city’s well fields, and the Ohio EPA will not allow any water from that location to be processed as drinking water. That VOC-contaminated water is pumped away from the well field through a specially-designed interceptor well.

When it was determined that the Ameron 253 was not designed for use with potable water, Lambert said a stop order was issued on the solids contact tank painting project and American Star had to remove all of the paint and re-do the project with an NSF-certified product specifically chosen by the city.

Lambert said that paint was more expensive, and was not among the products suggested by KTA-Tator, but he wanted to be certain that the material used would meet Ohio EPA’s standards for contact with potable water.

Kephart said the project has been completed and the tank is back in service, providing safe water for the community.

“We feel personally responsible for the drinking water used by about 18,000 people in this community,” he said.

An exact cost has not yet been determined for the Ameron 253 removal and re-painting of the solids contact tank, but city law director Paul Bertram III estimated it could be at least another $131,000 to $150,000 and he is seeking restitution from KTA-Tator.

In communications with the city related to the issue KTA has maintained that the solids contact tank is not a potable water tank and therefore does not require NSF-certified paint. The company said the tank is an open-top, early-stage treatment tank for raw water and not a drinking water tank.

KTA has maintained there was no reason for the city to remove and replace any coating solely because it was not NSF certified, and the city took it upon itself to spend money to remove paint that was perfectly acceptable for use in an open solids contact tank.

But, according to Ohio EPA regulations, “All chemicals, substances, and materials added to or brought in contact with water in or intended to be used in a public water system or used for the purpose of treating, conditioning, altering, or modifying the characteristics of such water shall be shown by either the manufacturer, distributor, or purveyor to be non-toxic and harmless to humans when used in accordance with the formulation and concentration as specified by the manufacturer, and shall be certified as meeting the ‘American National Standards Institute/National Sanitation Foundation (ANSI/NSF)’ standards…”

KTA-Tator has also stated that the solids contact tank contains bare concrete surfaces that are in contact with raw water in the tank and the company is not aware of any unpainted concrete that is NSF certified for contact with drinking water.

But Kephart said the solids contact tank does not have a bare concrete surface because all of the tank’s concrete structure has been sealed with a special coating.

Bertram recently sent a letter to Adley, alleging that KTA-Tator knew from the beginning that the coating used on the solids contact tank would touch drinking water because company representatives came to Marietta and saw the tank before the paint recommendations were made.

“The city of Marietta did have to remove and replace the coating because of the volatile organic compound that it contained. KTA-Tator Inc.’s negligence is why the city of Marietta had to spend additional taxpayer dollars removing the coating, Ameron 253,” he said.

In his letter Bertram recommended Adley, as CEO of KTA-Tator, contact the company’s insurance officer as soon as possible so that the company and city could begin a discussion to settle their differences.

He said if the discussion could not take place the city would pursue litigation.