Ohio EPA gives Pickerington deadline
The Ohio EPA gave Pickerington a deadline of 2009 to stop releasing particles from the wastewater treatment plant into Sycamore Creek.
Recently, OEPA "got word that (the city) would rather deal with the fines" and the agency responded by sending memos to all the council members and a few staff, councilman Michael Sabatino said at the council's April 7 meeting.
"That was an option thrown out by council president Jeff Fix," Councilman Brian Wisniewski said. "It was not one that I was interested in dealing with."
Wisniewski suggested that OEPA read about Fix's option in the council minutes. The OEPA has not quantified the amount of a fine.
Fix was absent from the April 7 council meeting and thereby unavailable for comment.
The problem stems from the salt-based system that Pickerington uses to soften the water it pumps from giant wells along Diley Road.
Wastewater from the process contains tiny particles with the technical name, total dissolved solids (TDS). The city pumps the wastewater to its wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) on Hill Road.
The softened well water travels to the homes and businesses throughout Pickerington to be used for cooking, cleaning, toilets, etc. The dirty water flushes down the drains to the WWTP.
The solid material is removed from the sewage and sold as fertilizer. The remaining water is cleaned, tested and poured into Sycamore Creek.
"(TDS) are minerals so fine that they can't be filtered out," City Engineer Brenda VanCleave said. "For the fish it is basically like breathing particles and it essentially chokes them."
In the memo to the city, the OEPA wrote the following:
"Sampling conducted by Ohio EPA in 2005 and 2006 documented that the TDS concentration has increased to the point where it is toxic to various invertebrate microorganisms living in Sycamore Creek near and downstream from the WWTP point of discharge. A major source of TDS in the city's wastewater is from the city's water treatment plant backwash waste stream."
Engineering firm URS presented many possible solutions to the council. The most effective option would replace the salt-based softener with a reverse osmosis system capable of filtering the TDS.
This estimated cost for the cash-strapped city would be $1.8 million to build. Not only would it solve the problem, it would "produce a superior water quality with a lower sodium concentration," the URS report states.
Sabatino said that attorneys for the city are researching whether Pickerington's TDS levels are actually high enough to be in violation.
The levels only spike in mid-summer when residents water their lawns. The demand for water becomes higher and the used water does not return to the WWTP to help dilute the increased backwash from the city's softener.
• Pickerington has applied for a U.S. Department of Justice grant to hire two police officers.
If awarded, the federal government would pay the salaries for three years then Pickerington would become responsible for retaining the officers at least one more year.
"It is a competitive grant," Sabatino said. "We will know in mid-May."
• Pickerington Up Around Pickerington Day will be Friday, April 24 beginning at 10 a.m., starting at city hall.
Trash bags, gloves and safety vests will be provided.
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