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Village Council— Go ahead for water softening

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At their April 6 meeting, Village Council members unanimously voted to move ahead with adding water softening to the proposed new water plant. Council voted 5–0 to request that HNTB, the firm overseeing the plant design, include a pellet softening component to the plant, which is slated to begin construction next year.

The decision followed a March 18 presentation by HNTB on four softening technologies, with the recommendation that the Village choose pellet softening. Earlier this year a group of Council members and Village staff visited water plants in the area to observe the different technologies, and also ended up preferring the pellet method.

The need to provide softening became clear following a meeting between Village staff and the largest water users in the village, during which all reported that they spend a significant amount softening local water, according to Superintendent of Water and Wastewater Treatment Joe Bates at the April 6 meeting. The large users, including YSI/Xylem, Antioch College and the Yellow Springs Brewery, all urged Council to add a water softening component to the new plant to reduce their business expenses, Bates stated, noting that two thirds of villagers also have home water softeners, indicating villagers’ preference for softer water as well.

The pellet softening method is considered both the most environmentally friendly and the least expensive of the softening technologies, Bates said. At 450 miligrams of hardness per liter currently, Yellow Springs water is considered extremely hard, and the pellet technology will cut that hardness by about half. The processed water will still be hard, at about 225 miligrams of hardness per liter, but will require far less softening by both industries and residents. And because the water remains hard, it will still hold the possible health benefits of hard water.

“We came to the conclusion that this technology is a nice balance” between the need for softening and some hard water benefits, Bates said.

Because the water will still be hard after the softening treatment, it should retain its current taste, according to Manager Patti Bates. And regardless of what softening technique is used, the manganese in local water, which is the mineral that causes brown water, will be removed in the new water plant, according to Council President Karen Wintrow.

Including the water softening component adds about $600,000 to the $3.2 million expense of building the new water plant, HNTB officials have stated. The added expense is the cost of two reactor tanks, a sand feed system and a system to convey the waste sand from the process to a holding bin.

The pellet softening process is a fairly simple one that is popular in Europe but less used in this country, HNTB engineer Sam Swanson has stated. The process involves first conditioning water with sodium hydroxide to allow calcium carbonate hardness to adhere to sand, then pouring sand into the water, to which the calcium clings, thus removing it. Only the magnesium hardness in the water will remain. The main waste product is sand, which could be reused by the Village for other projects.

While undiluted sodium hydroxide is a caustic substance, it is used in water softening technologies in a highly diluted form that poses no harm to humans, according to Council member Marianne MacQueen. And while the process will double the amount of sodium in local water, the final amount remains very small, according to Council member Lori Askeland. Other methods of softening considered by Council would involve adding far higher amounts of sodium to local water, HNTB officials said.

Council’s vote for pellet softening April 6 will allow HNTB to include the softening component in its conceptual design of the plant, which is scheduled to be completed later this summer or fall.

In other April 6 Council business:
• MacQueen requested that Council put on its agenda a discussion around policing issues, specifically Village involvement in the ACE Task Force. Several community forums have been held on the issue, MacQueen said, and it seems time for Council to address the topic.
Council members will consider how best to address the issue at its May 18 meeting, with a July meeting as the likely date of the actual discussion.

• Following the recent Council retreat, Wintrow stated that Council plans to institute two new formats for meetings aimed at facilitating the process. A consent agenda will be used for Council votes on items considered noncontroversial, and work sessions will be included in some Council meetings to provide more informal opportunities for discussions with both Village staff and citizens, Wintrow said.

Council will introduce its first consent agenda at its April 20 meeting.

• Council approved an agreement between the Village and the Greene County engineer for participation in the county’s cooperative paving program.

• Council will hear a presentation on solar issues at its April 20 meeting, along with a report from the Environmental Commission on current local efforts around climate change.


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