You must make sure enough qualified people are on the job to keep the water safe, the EPA also told the MVSD board.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
MINERAL RIDGE -- Plant improvements are needed and proper staffing must be ensured at Mahoning Valley Sanitary District, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency says.
"MVSD's filter gallery controls and valves are in poor condition and should be either upgraded or replaced," Ahmed S. Hawari, an Ohio EPA environmental geologist, wrote in a letter to MVSD's board of directors. The devices control water flow through the plant's filters.
Cost: The district's chief engineer, David Tabak, said he agrees with Hawari, and estimated it will cost just under $5 million to comply. "There are five to six valves per filter, and there are 16 filters," he said.
The letter, which reported results of the EPA's annual inspection of the district's water treatment plant May 9, was dated June 8. Tabak discussed it at a Friday afternoon district board of directors meeting.
The letter strongly endorsed Tabak's suggestion that the filter gallery be renovated.
Tabak had told the inspectors that a meter will be provided by Jan. 1 to record turbidity levels (the concentration of particles in the water) for each filter every 15 minutes as required by the EPA, and Hawari wrote that the meters "should be installed as soon as practical."
MVSD provides water from Meander Reservoir to about 300,000 customers in Mahoning and Trumbull counties through its member cities, Youngstown and Niles.
Understaffed: The letter said Tabak told the inspectors the district is understaffed and behind on completing some regular maintenance. Because those who've retired or resigned weren't replaced, Tabak said, his staff now consists of 36, and that the ideal level would be between 45 and 50 people. "We're low across the board, primarily though, in our field maintenance areas," he added.
"It is the responsibility of MVSD to employ an adequate number of trained personnel to monitor plant operations, maintain the facility and contend with contingency situations in order to maintain compliance with Ohio safe drinking water regulations," Hawari wrote.
Without elaborating, the letter also said MVSD will be required to take steps to control potential sources of contamination in its watershed. "Your source water is unique in that you own most of the surrounding land impacting your water reservoir. May 2003 is the projected date for completing the work," Hawari wrote.
Performance audit: Tabak said the Ohio Auditor's Office began a month ago to conduct a performance audit requested by the MVSD board and should finish it in November or December. The audit is designed to determine how the district can improve its economic and operational efficiencies, he said.
Tabak also said the district will open bids in its office at 1 p.m. Tuesday for removal of sludge -- the solids removed from the water during the treatment process.
The treatment plant, which has 28 acres of sludge lagoons, has accumulated about 171,000 cubic yards of sludge on its premises in the 12 years since it was last removed, he said. The cost of removal has been a factor in the long-term accumulation, he added. "We would like to see it put on farmland," he said. "This is not a hazardous material," he added.
The board granted 5 percent raises, effective Sunday, to all of its unionized employees and most nonunion workers.