PORTSMOUTH – Kris Ruggles, an associate from Strand Associates, visited City Council on Monday and gave a plethora of updates on the upcoming water treatment plant as well as the sewer system within the city.

The City has agreed to temporarily provide water to South Shore, Kentucky via a pipe that runs along the Grant Bridge. Eventually, they will receive water from the new water treatment plant and a pipe that will be ran along the bottom of the Ohio River.

“I’m very pleased to say we got soil borings in the Ohio River Last week,” said Ruggles. “They had a barge and took a core drill to determine the bedrock depth right in front of the Conley Shipping Facility. The design for that pipe can now be finalized. Improvements are also happening on the South Shore side of the river to receive that water.”

South Shore has agreed to pay for the construction of the pipe, according to Ruggles, and will be a large customer of the City’s water going forward.

“We hope to have a big need for contractors on that project this summer, pending Army Corps of Engineers and railroad permitting.”

The City will also look to begin construction of a new water treatment plant, the first in over 100 years in Portsmouth.

“The water treatment plant design was finished last Fall,” said Ruggles. “We turned the permitting into review for the Ohio EPA in December. They heave a heavy load with all the infrastructure money coming through, and we’ve not yet received any comment. We have a meeting set to review the design on April 6th…with a project that size there will be 10-20 pages of comments and questions to address from the Ohio EPA. Hopefully, we can get that project out to bid this Summer and have it awarded by August.”

The new water treatment plant will cost over $65 million dollars – with most of the funding coming from an Ohio EPA loan.

“Material costs have been on the rise, substantially, over the last couple years,” warned Ruggles. “We will try everything we can to get that project bid sooner rather than later…but costs are going to go up. Any estimates we get are going to be higher in 4-5 months.”

Ruggles also gave an update on the City’s sanitary and rain water sewer systems.

“The US EPA and the City negotiated a federal order to do certain projects to address some issues with the combined storm water and sanitary sewer system,” said Ruggles. “They’ve been addressed and the US EPA said you were done. On the heel of that, the Ohio EPA said they wanted to look at the next phase of the long term control plan to control the sewer and reduce the amount of sewer overflow into the Ohio and Scioto rivers.”

Strahd explained that, while Portsmouth does have a permit to put water into the Ohio River during a storm scenario, Ohio EPA wants to work towards limiting and minimizing those overflows as much as possible.

“Your infrastructure started off as a combined system,” explained Ruggles. “It’s really too entangled to for the US EPA to say its illegal. But the idea is to practice best management – which is to capture and treat the first and worst part of the storm water, which has a lot of sewage in the pipes, and to dilute it and reduce the concentration of bacteria with higher water discharges. Eventually, the policy will be to limit and minimize overflows as much as possible which is what the City needs to work towards.”

The first step, according to Ruggles, is to get better monitoring on outflows and create a model of the sewer system that predicts when overflows will happen.

“The reality is, the city’s system of tracking is not accurate. Many older storm water pump stations have no monitoring. To determine overflow, a crew member goes and lifts a man hole, sees water, and estimates how much has gone through.”

In addition to improper monitoring of sewer discharge to the Ohio and Scioto, the Ohio EPA recently wrote an SSO violation when they learned of another sanitary sewer overflow in Sciotoville off Harding Avenue behind Scioto Shoe Mart.

“That system…is 100-120 years old and the pipes are starting to collapse. They are always full of water. If you get lots of rain, it flushes with rain water and the seepage comes out of manholes.”

The good news, according to Ruggles, is that funding is available over the next few years to remediate SOS issues and to undergo regionalization projects – such as bringing in additional customers (like South Shore).

“Funding is available…we need to get on a timeline to capture as much infrastructure money as possible for these projects.”