Dennis Howell, Archbold village administrator and former Archbold water treatment plant superintendent, said a recent violation of a water quality standard at the plant was only the second in about 50 years.
Howell criticized the United States Environmental Protection Agency standard at the Archbold council meeting, Monday night, Jan. 18.
Howell holds a Class IV water treatment plant operator license, the highest level in the state. Fewer than 120 Ohioans hold a Class IV; three work in Archbold.
The other two are Rick Schantz, water treatment plant superintendent, and Jeff Neuenschwander, assistant water treatment plant superintendent.
In addition to being lab supervisor and water quality supervisor for 15 years, Howell served on two state committees that advised the Ohio EPA on regulations.
The plant was cited for a Tier II USEPA violation, which “is not a critical health violation,” he said.
Specifically, the plant violated the standard for turbidity in its finished water. Turbidity is the cloudiness or haziness in water. It’s measured in Nephelometric Turbidity Units, or NTU.
The plant is required to produce water that is below .3 NTU for 95% of the time it operates per month. For December, the Archbold water treatment plant was under for only 91.3%.
“When I started in 1976, the standard for NTU was 10. Then it was 1. Then it was .5. Now it’s less than .3,” Howell said.
Howell said a water treatment plant can’t stop, then restart filtering water without violating .3 NTU– hence the 95% rule. The only way to avoid a violation on a restart is to simply dump finished water into sewers until the .3 NTU standard is met. The Archbold plant does not have provisions for dumping finished water.
The strict NTU standard only went into effect about two years ago. The new requirement stemmed from an incident several years ago, in which a city was trying to cut back the amount of chlorine used to treat water, to avoid another USEPA issue– trihalomethanes. Trihalomethanes are a by-product of using chlorine to treat drinking water. Howell said in huge quantities, they represent a health risk.
As a result of cutting back chlorine, a microbe-sized parasite got into the water supply, sickened some persons, and resulted in the deaths of some persons with severely compromised immune systems.
Howell said the change to .3 NTU “is a very severe, very radical change” that raises the cost of water treatment.
“In my opinion, the USEPA has absolutely lost their minds,” he said.–David