EPA to city: Damaged water intake deficient

EAST LIVERPOOL– The city could face administrative or civil penalties from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) after a recent inspection showed a “significant deficiency” in the water plant’s compliance with state law.

During the Jan. 11 Limited Scope Site Visit (LSSV), the OEPA inspector viewed pictures taken when the water intake structure located in the Ohio River was damaged when struck two years ago by a passing barge.

The photos showed that the top of the intake structure was sheared off its foundation and moved upstream between one and three feet, according to the OEPA report.

It was noted city Utilities Director Tim Clark had reported a video taken of the inside of the intake structure and of the valves controlling the flow of water from the river to the treatment plant from at least three different elevations are damaged and said Clark advised, “They absolutely do not work.”

This, according to the OEPA, poses a threat to the city’s water supply, which is obtained from all intake elevations.

According to the report, if a spill were to occur upstream of the intake, the city would not be able to shut down the flow of water into the intake structure at any elevation, potentially causing contamination to the intake structure and pipe leading to the deep well.

It was explained that being able to isolate different levels of water coming in from the intake structure makes it possible to shut down flow from the river to the deep well and treatment plant while allowing a supply of clean water from an elevation not impacted by spills and contamination.

Although water can be shut off at the deep well, that would allow no water to flow to the treatment plant, potentially leaving customers without water in the event of a lengthy contamination event, according to the OEPA.

The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) reported 24 spills during 2016 from mile marker 0 to 49.9 in the Ohio River, and the city is at mile marker 40.2, according to the report, which noted a harmful algal bloom occurred as close as Yellow Creek, about five to six miles downstream.

In response to this finding, the OEPA has ordered the city to repair the intake structure and to provide a written response within 30 days of the Jan. 23 notice indicating how the repairs will be made and a time schedule.

Failure to correct such a significant deficiency violation would ultimately result in the city being required to issue a Tier 2 public notice to its water customers and can also result in the penalties.

During a meeting Wednesday of city council’s utilities committee, Clark presented the OEPA’s letter and advised that almost $20,000 was spent in inspection of the pier and that the matter is currently in the hands of the law director, who is filing a lawsuit against the Crounse Corp., owner of the barge that struck the intake pier.

Clark was advised by Service-Safety Director Brian Allen that, since legal action is pending, no other information should be shared publicly.

In a related matter, Clark reported the EPA has recommended for years repairs to a leak on the clear well in the pipe galley, cautioning the committee that failing to do so could result in the same type of violation as the city faces from the intake damage.