PORTSMOUTH — When it comes to getting water to the city and a fair share of county residents, the Portsmouth Water Treatment Plant has held that responsibility for more than 70 years.
On Wednesday, the Portsmouth Daily Times joined Director of Water Filtration and City Manager Sam Sutherland in a tour of the facility just east of the New Boston Walmart.
“I know it might be hard to see, but there are a lot of areas of the facility that are in bad shape,” he said, serving in the department for the past 32 years.
Past its useful life, the time to demolish the plant will occur after the new, $67 million plant is constructed. Starting in the third quarter of 2022, the construction of the smaller plant is expected to be completed in 2025.
Sutherland said while the new plant will be smaller, it will be able to produce just as many if not more gallons per day. Daily production ranges from five to 5.5 million gallons of water, yet the new plant will be suited to produce eight to 10 million gallons- capable of more if there is an increased need.
The process of getting clean water to users is a multilayered one as Ohio River waters first go through the intake system before purification begins. Through filtration, water softening, and additions of fluoride and lime, the water is made ready for users in Portsmouth, New Boston, Rosemount, Wheelersburg, and other towns throughout Scioto County.
Earlier this month, Utility Planning Engineer and Funding Coordinator Kris Ruggles and Project Manager Andrew Esarey of Strand Associates, Inc. visited Portsmouth City Council to discuss the plant. With the preliminary designs in place, they are requesting council approval to proceed with the final design loan for the WTP.
“You guys have gotten more than your money’s worth out of the plant you have,” Ruggles said during the May 10, City Managers’ session. “As Andrew and I said, the single points of failure are a very significant risk.”
There, the group broke down the needed expenditures in the upcoming construction. Nearly $15 million will go into building a new Ohio River Intake structure, replacing the existing model from the 1920s.
Other larger cost items include the addition of high-rate dual media filters and two new clearwells- a storage system for the water after it has been disinfected and filtrated- coming in at $8.9 million and $10.1 million, respectively.
Throughout the years, Sutherland said smaller fixes or a Band-Aid approach has been necessary since it was what the city could afford. Even with an improving fiscal state, he believes an aggressive search for state and federal grant money is necessary.
With the passing of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a portion of the $350 billion set aside for state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments would come to both the county and city. As City Auditor Trent Williams told the Times, an estimate of $3.95 million is going toward Portsmouth and $14.61 million would go toward Scioto.
According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, investment in water infrastructure is among a list of eligible expenses. Others include broadband and sewer infrastructure, public health expenditures, and replacement of lost public sector revenue.
Williams said Sutherland will be requesting the council to authorize $300,000 for the Munn’s Run sewer pump station at the June 14 session. The remaining funds would be requested for use at the new WTP and the Franklin Furnace booster station.
Raising the water bills, which recent estimates indicate are well under the state average, is also an approach that might be in order. Bringing the $40.90 bill to the suggested $64.55 by 2026 would bring it almost $2 more than the projected state average of that year, but still remain below current rates for places such as Jackson County.
“Our staff is very capable,” Sutherland said of the WTP crew. “But it’s (the WTP) past maintaining.”
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @pkeckreporter. © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.