SCIOTO- After a string of boil water advisories, five since July 9, county and city officials stress that citizens should not worry about their drinking water quality.
Director of Water Filtration Sam Sutherland owed the troubles to extreme temperatures and old infrastructure, which have made the pipes more sensitive but are still not a risk for contamination.
“Advisories are just a precautionary measure,” said Sutherland. “99% of the time you’re going to be fine, but what if there’s just that one strange case.”
Due to such issues as water line breaks, pumping station outages or other types of depressurization, the Scioto County Emergency Management Agency has warned five separate locations to boil their water for at least two minutes to ensure it is safe to drink.
The Portsmouth Daily Times created a map that shows where and when the boil advisories have occurred so far this summer. These advisories were in place at Houston Hollow Road in Lucasville; Cleveland Avenue, Woodlawn Avenue and McKinley Avenue in Portsmouth; Howard Furnace Road, Piquet Road, Martin Road and Delaney Road in Wheelersburg.
The advisories are sent out from the Scioto County Regional Water Authority and the Portsmouth Water Treatment Plant. SCRWA provides water to 20,000 people directly and then another 20,000 through the Northwest Regional Water District in McDermott. Established in 1967, water is pumped from an aquifer east of the Scioto River near State Route 348.
According to a 2017 report, the Ohio EPA found that water from the authority to have a “highly susceptibility to contamination,” due to a thin layer of protective soil near the aquifer and numerous potential contamination sources in the area. Still, no violations for disinfectants, contaminants or by-products were found in its 2019 Annual Water Quality report.
Water problems in the city reached headlines in 2018 when a series of boil advisories led to shortages throughout the city, including the Southern Ohio Medical Center. Firefighters had to run water to the hospital after the break in the waterline affected 80 homes and some 240 people.
To update its infrastructure, city council requested Sutherland, serving under his city manager role, last week to enter into a cooperative agreement with the Ohio Water Development Authority. Through the agreement, a loan would go toward building a new water treatment plant.
It would replace the existing plant, built in 1950 and expanded on in 1972. Typically having a useful life of 30 years, Sutherland said good maintenance and employees have been able to extend that time. Repair for the plant would not be cost-effective, compared to creating a new one.
“Our thought process is to be proactive and have a new facility in place before a substantial failure occurs,” said Sutherland via email. “The existing plant is running fine and meets current standards.”
Through the agreement with OWDA, the city will first have to apply for a Design and Planning Loan. Over the course of five years, the city will pay back the loan of $500,000 to $600,000 on slightly less than 2% interest.
Sutherland said a lengthy process will follow where Portsmouth will have to meet standards and comply with the Ohio EPA.
Likely, he said, the city will have to borrow money to complete the project, which could add up to $4 million. 10% of this sum will go to engineering costs, although Sutherland feels past repairs could lower these costs.
The true cost of the project is hard to project because of the unaccounted, good or bad, with construction.
“The engineers try to give you the best number they can,” said Sutherland. “General rule of thumb is 10%, but we think we’ll be less than that.”
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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