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May
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Infrastructure & Services

Yellow Springs’ new water plant is online

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Yellow Springs residents should notice changes in local tap water now that the new, long-awaited water plant is up and running, according to Village Manager Patti Bates recently.

About seven years in the planning and making, the new plant has been online for several weeks now. 

“The new water plant is extremely important, as the old plant was failing rapidly and was in dire need of replacement or, at the very least, extensive upgrades,” Bates wrote in an email. “Villagers will see softer water, which means easier rinsing of soap, the ability to use less soap when laundering clothes or cleaning, as well as less salt in their water softeners.”

And as well as softening local water, the new plant removes iron and manganese.

Perhaps the removal of manganese, which should eventually mean the end of brown water in local homes and businesses, will be the most significant change, according to Yellow Springs Water Plant Superintendent Brad Ault. The previous plant didn’t remove manganese, which is the main source of local water discoloration, or brown water. While the brown color in Yellow Springs water wasn’t harmful to health, it was seen by many as unsightly, and could cause staining on clothes.

Yet while the new plant is removing manganese, the brown water won’t disappear overnight, according to Bates. Because Village water lines have years of built-up sediment in them, villagers will continue to have occasional outbreaks of brown water. And those outbreaks often take place in winter, when temperature extremes can cause water main breaks.

To combat the brown water, Village Electric and Water Distribution Superintendent Johnnie Burns, in collaboration with the Ohio Rural Water Association, has developed a new system for flushing the pipes, according to Bates. The new system uses unidirectional flushing, which should be more effective than the old, two-directional flushing because water pressure will be higher. However, flushing out the pipes will take time, and since the Village normally flushes out pipes two times yearly, the entire process may take up to three years.

“So, yes, we no longer have water with iron and manganese coming from the plant, but until we are able to flush the sediment out of the pipes, we will continue to have brown water,” Bates wrote.

Proud of new plant

Recently Ault led this reporter on a tour of the new plant, which sits adjacent to the site of the old plant just off the Village wellfield at the end of Jacoby Road south of Yellow Springs. The old plant was recently demolished by Shook Construction, which also constructed the new plant. The firm has offices in Dayton, Cleveland and Raleigh, N.C.

The Village water and wastewater crew — Superintendent Ault and Operators John Christenson and Richard Stockton — are thrilled that the new plant is up and running, Ault and Christenson said.

  “We take pride in providing better water for citizens,”  Ault said. 

  The new plant, which can process up to a million gallons of water a day, is two to three times larger than the previous plant, which was about 60 years old. The extra space is necessary for the water softening component of the plant, along with expanded room for water testing, according to Ault.

Water enters the plant from the south side, nearest the four wells in the Village well field. First the water is piped into two tower-shaped aerators just outside the plant doors, where the water is mixed with air, removing iron. Chlorine is also added at this point, to remove manganese, and is added a second time before the water leaves the plant, to disinfect.

Next, the water is piped inside the plant to the two tall cone-shaped softeners. There, the water is mixed with sand, which bonds with the calcium in the water, removing the calcium and thus the water’s hardness, using a method called Amsterdam process, or pellet softening.

“It’s a very simple process,” Ault  said.

 At 15 grams of hardness per gallon, local water is still considered hard, although far less than previously, when Yellow Springs water contained 30 grams of hardness per gallon. According to Bates, villagers with water softeners will likely need to reduce the amount of salt used.

Next, the water flows into the plant’s  gravity filters, where seven layers of gravel remove the sand from the water.  The filtered water then moves outside to the clearwell (the same well used in the previous plant) where it stays until local water tower levels decline to the point that more water is piped to the towers.

Talk about the need for a new water plant began years ago, with Council discussion beginning in 2011, due to the deteriorating condition of the old plant. At the time, Village leaders considered several alternatives, including purchasing water from Springfield or Xenia, although public opinion strongly favored that the Village maintain control of its water. Consequently, Village leaders considered whether to build new or update the old plant, and eventually decided to rebuild. The Village contracted with HNTB to act as the criteria engineer on the project, after which Shook was selected from 12 firms vying for the construction job.

The plant was constructed by Shook Construction at a cost that should not rise above $7,196,229, according to Bates. To fund the project, the Village has a 30-year no-interest loan for $1.3 million from the Ohio Public Works Commission, as well as a low-interest loan from the Ohio Water Development Authority. The Village also has OPWC grant of up to $162,800 to pay part of the interest on the project. Village water rates were also increased significantly in recent years to help pay for the plant.

The final cost of the plant sparked some concern, as it’s considerably higher than early estimates. When Council first considered building a plant in 2011, it received an estimate of $3.2 million by the firm Artesian of Pioneer. Later, the criteria engineer firm HNTB estimated $5.1 million as the probable cost of the plant.  The cost difference is linked to the Artesian of Pioneer estimate having been meant for a plant without water softening, and the HNTB estimate having been based on inaccurate figures, Village leaders have said.

Current water plant staff will sponsor an open house in the spring, according to Ault. In the meantime, they are happy to offer tours of the plant to anyone interested, and especially encourage school groups to visit. To contact the water plant crew, call 767-7208.

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Yellow Springs’ new water plant is online

by Diane Chiddister