Ohio EPA gives Pickerington deadline
The Ohio EPA has given Pickerington a deadline of 2009 to stop polluting Sycamore Creek.
Instead of spending nearly $2 million to fix the problem, the cash-strapped city plans to challenge the OEPA assertion that the city has done harm.
At issue are tiny "minerals so fine they can't be filtered out," Pickerington staff engineer Brenda VanCleave said.
The tiny minerals, known as Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), are a byproduct of the water softening process at the Water Treatment Plant (WTP) off Diley Road, VanCleave said.
The city uses a salt-based water softener that creates TDS as byproduct, VanCleave said.
The byproduct flows to the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) off Hill Road, but the particles slip through the filters and pour with the cleaned water into Sycamore Creek, VanCleave said.
In a memo to the city, the OEPA warned that in studies it conducted during 2005 and 2006, the TDS level downstream of the WWTP had "increased to the point where it is toxic to various invertebrate microorga nisms living in Sycamore Creek."
Engineering firm URS recommended that the city replace the salt-softener with a $1.8 million reverse-osmosis system that would fix the problem and provide the citizens with better-tasting drinking water.
At the Oct. 7 Finance Committee meeting, council instructed Finance Director Linda Fersch to issue bonds for a new $2 million water tower, but not to borrow money for a new water softening system.
Council president Jeff Fix said the city could wait for the new system until it proved necessary.
The city hired a research firm, EnviroScience, to conduct a separate study, VanCleave said.
In September and October, EnviroScience performed biological tests of Sycamore Creek to determine if the organisms living in the water were as sensitive to the TDS as the OEPA asserts, VanCleave said.
"It's a gamble," VanCleave said.
The city hopes that EnviroScience proves that the organisms living in the stream can handle higher TDS levels than the state threshold, but the study could indicate that the organisms are more sensitive, VanCleave said.
EnviroScience will submit its findings to the city in November, Service Director Ed Drobina said.
In other business, Mayor Mitch O'Brien recommended when Pickerington partners with Violet Township on projects, the cost should not be split equally.
Recently, the township and city have jointly funded several projects including the Independence Day celebration and donations to Pickerington Central's band.
The city has met the township's donation with equivalent funds of its own.
Because all of Pickerington lies within the township, the residents of Pickerington pay twice for the joint ventures, O'Brien said.
"A 50/50 split is not really reasonable," O'Brien said. "We all pay taxes to the township."
O'Brien instructed Deputy Finance Director Chris Schornack to research a more equitable split that would reflect the portion of the township's funding that it receives from Pickerington residents.