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Council regards water sourcing

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At their Feb. 4 meeting, Village Council members and Village Manager Laura Cur­liss began a discussion on the best way to source Village water.

“The staff recommendation now is the same as it was in 2011,” Curliss wrote in a memo. “We have to do something.”

The topic was discussion only, and the beginning of what promises to be an ongoing consideration of the issue. Council approved Curliss’ request to fund three studies for more information on the water sourcing choice; those studies will be completed around the end of March, and the discussion will continue at that time. Curliss stated she hopes a decision is made by the end of May in order to move ahead with funding opportunities.

The main question is whether to refurbish or rebuild the Village’s aging water plant, which is more than 50 years old, or source water from another municipality. The most likely sourcing option is Springfield, due to geography (the village is downhill from Springfield), cost and the opportunity to source softer water from that city, according to Curliss’ memo.

Difficulties with the current water plant include its age, unreliability and its inability to rid local water of manganese, which causes the brown water episodes that affect many villagers. Citing a survey from a 2012 Yellow Springs News series on water issues, Curliss identified citizens’ concerns as staining due to brown water and the need to soften water in homes, or have appliances and plumbing damaged by the Village’s hard water.

“There are many hidden costs that people are bearing because they’re doing water treatment in their homes,” she said.

While the majority of villagers in the survey also identified local control of water as a priority, Curliss said it was not clear “what citizens understand as loss of control.”

Curliss also cited Village Water Superintendent Joe Bates’ concern that the Village currently has no secondary source of water, and that if the Village water towers were to go down, only four days worth of water would be available.

In 2011 the Village funded a water supply feasibility study from villager and LJB engineer John Eastman, but that study did not provide sufficient information for decision-making, according to Curliss’ memo. That study identified refurbishing the local plant as the most cost effective option.

Curliss sought from Council funding for a water plant condition study, at a cost of $8,500; a preliminary engineering study for waterline partnering with Springfield, at a cost of $15,000 to $20,000; and a financial impact analysis showing the impact on water rates and the Village’s water budget “after capturing all known and projected costs 10 to 20 years into the future,” according to the memo. That study is estimated to cost about $8,500.

Curliss also stated that the cost of building a new water plant is about $2 million, and the cost of a plant able to soften water would cost $5 million. However, the Village is too small to consider building its own water-softening plant, according to Council member Rick Walkey, although it’s reasonable to build a new plant that would eliminate the manganese.

Council member Lori Askeland asked Curliss to include an analysis of potential environmental threats from partnering with Springfield, including a salt spill that the Ohio EPA is monitoring.

In her memo, Curliss wrote that she hopes the decision is made by the end of May so she has time to write a grant for funding from the Ohio Public Works Commission, which has a July 2013 deadline. If the Village receives funding, it could begin construction on either a new plant, plant refurbishing, or connection to Springfield in the summer of 2014, with the project completed by the end of that year.

Other items of Feb. 4 Council business will be in next week’s News.

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