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Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

Portsmouth Wastewater Director Rick Duncan says the Wastewater Department is in compliance with EPA requirements in regards to the certifications and qualifications of operators.

According to the EPA’s rulings concerning plant operators, Section E - “The director may approve an operator with a valid Class III certificate to be the operator of record of a Class IV public water system or Class IV treatment works for a period no longer than two years, if the Class III operator has applied for and received approval to take a Class IV examination in accordance with rule 3745-7-06 of the Administrative Code and maintains their Class III certificate for the duration of time for which the director grants approval in accordance with this paragraph. A public water system or wastewater treatment works may only use this exemption for a total of thirty months within a five year period.”

Duncan has applied for his Class IV operators license and is expecting notification of the approval of that classification soon.

“I have a Class III license. I have applied for my Class IV license. I should hear by the end of February about my approval,” Duncan said. “If I don’t get approved, then I have additional time to provide any other information that they are asking for. If I would get declined, then we would have to find somebody else to come in with a Class IV license. But I expect to get approved with my application. So we are not out of compliance. We are in compliance. We are operating according to the schedule that EPA gave us.”

Duncan said the decision on his application will be considered at the next board meeting, which is scheduled for Feb. 24 and he will be notified afterward.

The question came up this week after a series of e-mails, which began with former Portsmouth Mayor Jane Murray’s message to Scott Foster, Environmental Specialist with the Division of Surface Water, Southeast District, Ohio EPA.

Foster responded with the two sections referenced in this story, and said Duncan has submitted his exam, and the results should be known sometime toward the end of February. Foster said the Ohio EPA has levied a deadline of March 29, as an end point for the city to either have Duncan obtain his Class IV or have a Class IV in responsible charge of the wastewater facility.

Duncan must be on site 20 hours per week. He said the city requires all operators to have a Class I license, with the only exception being that department’s “Operator in Training program,” where someone can come in and work, and have up to two years to get their license. Duncan said that is not a state requirement, rather it is the city’s own requirement.

“The only requirement from the state of Ohio is that we have to have a Class IV operator, or a Class III operator who has been approved, and they are supposed to be there 20 hours a week,” Duncan said. “We have to have a Class II operator in Sciotoville 20 hours a week, and there is a provision for a Class I operator to step in and take his place if he is on vacation. And he (Class I operator) has to be there 20 hours a week.”

So how does the city stack up regarding additional operators required by the EPA? According to Section 2 - “Each person owning or operating a treatment works or sewerage system, except as provided for in paragraph (E) of this rule, shall designate one or more operator of record to oversee the technical operation of the treatment works, sewerage system, or each wastewater treatment facility. Each operator of record shall have a valid certification of a class equal to or greater than the classification of the treatment works, sewerage system, or wastewater treatment facility.”

“We’re in compliance in Sciotoville,” Duncan said. “We have a Class II operator in Sciotoville, and we don’t have any compliance issues as far as our operator’s certification. We are fully in compliance.”

Murray said as she drove down Grandview Avenue Wednesday, she observed that the telemetry alarm at Grandview and 23rd Street was flashing red.

“We have had consistent light and moderate rains today (Wednesday),” Murray said in the e-mail EPA officials Sudhir DeSai and Foster. “Normally it is the downpours that bring on the CSOs the most. Thankfully, Environmental Engineering Services installed that alarm. I have checked my basement and have no backup. I assume the city treatment plant operator lowered the weir gates.”

“We have a manhole at 23rd and Grandview,” Duncan said. “That’s our telemetry system. That monitors the water level in that manhole. And when it goes over five feet, there’s an alarm. It’s a flashing light, and that red light will come on. That sends a signal to the plant, and it tells us how high the water was at that location. Then, the operator at the plant can push a button that turns that light off. If he’s busy, or he doesn’t see it, it will stay on. All it means is that the water came up, then it went back down. It doesn’t mean it’s in anyone’s basement. It’s just a way for us to monitor the level of water in that sewer, and it got kind of high yesterday (Wednesday) with the rain that we had. It doesn’t mean that someone’s going to get flooded. That’s just how it was designed.”

Desai, Barbara VanTil, and others are expected to attend a public hearing on the city’s Long Term Control Plan, Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. in the Flohr Lecture Hall on the campus of Shawnee State University.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com.

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