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Solutions to brown water sought

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The periodic brown water in Yellow Springs homes is caused by manganese and is not harmful, according to Village Water and Wastewater Superintendent Joe Bates at Village Council’s June 21 meeting. However, the Village is concerned that some villagers have ongoing problems with the discolored water and is seeking ways to address the issue, according to Bates, Village Manager Mark Cundiff and Electric and Water Distribution Director Kelley Fox at the meeting. Bates and Fox had been asked to present an update on the Village water system to Council.

Brown water, which appears when the Village is flushing its water system, seems to occur more often in some village homes than in others, although it’s not clear exactly why, according to Bates. The brown coloration is caused by the naturally-occurring mineral that has built up in the 47-year-old water treatment plant, and will probably continue to be present to some extent until a new plant is constructed, Bates said. The Village pursued an EPA pilot project last November that was aimed at removing the manganese and iron in the water, but the test proved ineffective at removing manganese, according to Bates. The test revealed that a considerable amount of manganese residue had built up in the Village water tanks, and a combination of that buildup and the mineral’s continuing presence in Village water creates the discoloration.

“We’re doing our best with what we have to work with,” Bates said.

Villagers who are having problems with brown water are encouraged to contact the Village manager at 767-1279, so that a water crew employee can visit the home to assess the problem.

Council has included in this year’s budget funds for an analysis of the water plant, according to Cundiff, who said that the analysis will provide information about how best to proceed. Cundiff also suggested that purchasing water from another municipality is a possible option.

Village water is self-supporting, funded by water use fees, which had not been raised for 10 years until a recent fee hike. The rate hike is intended to provide the Village with the capacity to mount capital projects such as upgrading or replacing the water plant, Cundiff said.

Currently, Xenia is testing to see if a pre-chlorination process removes manganese, and Bates said he will keep informed about the project, and if it’s successful, consider using it here.

Villager Kathryn Van der Heiden urged Council to address the brown water problem as soon as possible.

“Something about this aging system needs attention,” she said. “Please make this a priority.”

A simple immediate solution can be to use a home filter system, which costs about $40. According to Council member Lori Askeland, who has the system, the filter eliminates brown water problems.

In a report on the water distribution system, Fox described the Village system as having 30 miles of water lines, ranging in size from 2-inch to 16-inch lines. The lines also vary in type, and include cast iron, plastic and galvanized iron. The system also includes two elevated storage tanks, which hold about 1 million gallons each, along with 200 fire hydrants.

An analysis of the Village water system by engineers at the Dayton firm LJB concluded that for normal water usage, the Village system is generally adequate. However, the major deficiency of the distribution system is a “severe bottleneck” on Xenia Avenue in the south end of town, immediately north of Allen Street, which affects fire flows and consumption, according to the report. According to Cundiff, less severe distribution problems are present on the Antioch College campus and downtown. The Village has created a five-year capital improvement projects plan which identifies several areas where pipes need to be updated.

Cundiff stated that he is pursuing federal stimulus funding as a possible way to fund the Xenia Avenue bottleneck.

In other Council business:

• Council approved the first reading of an ordinance that eliminates the angled parking on the south side of East North College from Livermore Street to Xenia Avenue, at the recommendation of Police Chief John Grote, because parallel parking is safer and high volume parking on the block is no longer necessary. The ordinance also changes the maximum parking time on Livermore between East North College and East South College from 12 hours to 24 hours, to provide visitors more flexibility, and changes the maximum consecutive hours of street parking from 24 to 72 hours. The latter change was recommended to accommodate weekend guests to the village.

• Council accepted a recommendation from Village Solicitor John Chambers that the streetlight replacement project be rebid due to the length of time between the RFP and awarding of the contract. The delay was due to the time needed to determine the best light fixtures for the project.

• Council postponed until its next meeting a discussion regarding a Village housing needs assessment.

• Council had a preliminary discussion on revised Council rules and regulations, and will return to the topic at its next meeting.

• Council will meet with the Yellow Springs school board on Aug. 26 for a discussion of how to work together to attract young families to town.

• Council’s next regular meeting is Tuesday, July 6, due to the July 4th holiday.

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