Marietta officials look to new water treatment plant | News, Sports, Jobs

A few aging water treatment plants simply don’t do the job for Marietta anymore.

Marietta Councilman Bret Allphin, chairman of the council’s water and sewer committee, reviewed the situation at a meeting of that committee on Tuesday. Among his points:

∫ The works are old: 1934 and 1975, the two dates well beyond the average life expectancy of 20 years.

∫ There have been problems with several processes used to treat water. Perhaps more importantly, the current soda and lime ash filtering process is not up to par with some of today’s new contaminants.

A new, more efficient and smaller plant is being considered by Marietta officials, similar to the facility in operation at Devola. It would replace the two factories on the hill behind Marietta Memorial Hospital, which would be built in the same location. The two plants currently process approximately 8 million gallons of water, which is far more than the city actually uses. The new plant would be designed to handle 4.5 million gallons.

It would be a reverse osmosis water treatment system. Construction would take two years, with one of the current plants managing the city’s water supply until the new one was completed and the remaining old one could be demolished.

The project is said to have an estimated price tag of $30 million. The money to pay for that would involve a loan from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for much of the cost, but there would also be no way to do that without a rate hike in a way or another.

Allphin says he knows there will be people who will demand to know, “Why can’t we just fix what we have?” It’s not possible, he says.

“I have to emphasize that we are not in a no-build situation,” Allphin said. “We’ve brought in outside experts, and over the past two years I’ve seen a lot of due diligence on this.”

The need for big change has been evident for some time, he said. About 80% of the desired design concept was available by the time it came to the board.

On those water rate increases, the city is doing more than guessing what will be needed, Allphin said. In February, the city entered into a contract for about $7,000 with RCAP, or Rural Community Assistance Partnership. The organization specializes in helping small communities assess what they need to do with rates to cover capital improvement costs such as those envisioned by Marietta. As Allphin explained, RCAP looks at a number of key factors such as available cash, debt, billing data, usage data, and current rates. Then, the group carries out a personalized tariff study.

Marietta has her RCAP study on water rates in hand and is careful about how it is presented to the public. Allphin said he and City Engineer Joe Tucker reviewed the study twice. Right now, Mayor Josh Schlicher and Security Service Director Steve Wetz are studying it. The plan is for RCAP’s Todd Brandenburg to present the study in detail to the Water and Sewer Committee at its meeting next Tuesday and then at the October 20 council meeting.

Afterwards, Allphin plans to hold meetings where the water tariff study and the existing design plan will be presented to the public.

The Ohio EPA loan that Allphin hopes to use has an application deadline in early December, but he says one thing is certain by then.

“I’m adamant that I don’t want to apply for a loan for this until the rates are available,” he said.

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