Wauseon has received a water violation from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency almost a year after its last one, and city officials are investigating how to resolve the problem.
Made public Sept. 1, the OEPA notice announced the city has exceeded the the state’s maximum containment level of total trihalomethanes (TTHM) with a reading of 0.087 milligrams per liter over the last four quarters. The standard reading is 0.080 mg/L.
The city’s water was tested Aug. 8 at Dorothy B. Biddle Park and at Gerald Grain Center on County Road J. The annual TTHM average was high at the first site and significantly under standard levels at the second site.
The city’s last OEPA water violation was received in October 2015 for the Gerald Grain location.
A statement released to customers said the current increased levels are not an immediate health risk, but that people with significant health concerns should see a doctor. The effects of TTHM over years of exposure can include damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system.
TTHM are chemicals that form after chlorine is added to the city’s water to kill volatile organic compounds.
“Because there are more organics in the water in the summer when it’s hot, there are going to be more TTHMs,” said Lou Thourot, water treatment plant superintendent. He said lower water levels in the city reservoir caused by evaporation during warm weather create more organics.
The city uses one million gallons of water per day from the reservoir. Of the two million gallons provided daily by the City of Napoleon, half evaporates from the summer heat, Thourot said. Under those seasonal conditions, the reservoir gains only one or two inches of water per week.
Wauseon administrators are presently considering two options to eliminate TTHMs. One involves installing an aeration system in the city’s water treatment plant at an estimated cost of between $200,000-$250,000. The other would fit the plant with granular activated carbon (GAC) filters at an estimated cost of $2.5 million for the filters and to build a facility necessary for the process. Replacing the GAC annually would cost between $40,000-$50,000.
Thourot said a GAC system would raise customers’ water bills.
“We’re trying to do this as economically and responsibly as we can to the consumer,” he said of resolving the current problem. “We’ve actually had pretty good success with the operation of the plant.”
An aeration system was installed two years ago in the city water tower off of Shoop Avenue, but there wasn’t enough water movement through the system to decrease TTHM levels, he said.
“We really hope this aeration will get the numbers down,” Thourot said, but added, “It’s not a magic cure.”
Public Service Director Dennis Richardson said the aeration systems in the city’s water towers are working well, but the city plans to look into additional treatment.
“We’re considering any option that will ultimately would take care of the issue,” he said.
Heather Lauer, a spokesperson for the OEPA Public Interest Center, said while Wauseon’s TTHM levels aren’t an immediate risk the city is required to return to regulation compliance as quickly as possible. The city must submit a plan to the OEPA for approval.
“We often see this type of violation in third quarter sampling, especially when it’s drawn from reservoirs and rivers,” Lauer said.
The violation will escalate only if the city fails to make progress in resolving it, she added.
Thourot said one reason for the current violation is that OEPA regulations have changed several times over the past 15 years. “If we were going by the old rules, we wouldn’t be in violation now,” he said.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.