One of the most valuable and abused resources on earth is a substance vital to our existence – water. It is our duty to preserve this natural resource to maintain an adequate supply for all.
Ground water is water found beneath the soil. About 35% of Ohioans get their water from the ground. Surface water is water open to the atmosphere. The other 65% of Ohioans get their water from lakes and rivers throughout the state. However, about 93% of public water systems withdraw their water from wells. Think about how somebody that lives a great distance away from you can have an impact on your drinking water, or on the other hand, how you can affect the drinking water of others. The creek that flows through Van Wert joins the Auglaize River which joins the Maumee River. The Maumee River flows into the East end of Lake Erie beside Toledo. The flow of Lake Erie travels east past Cleveland. Lake Erie is the largest supplier of fresh water and the Ohio River is the second for Ohioans. It is vital that everybody pitches in to protect any water shed of which they are a guest in. Keeping a close eye on land uses and contamination potentials in the watershed, helps insure a safer water to purify for consumption.
Water is a resource that most everyone takes for granted. Being near the Great Lakes give us a false impression of a vast abundance and an unlimited supply of fresh water. When service is interrupted it can be easily acknowledged how heavily we depend upon this resource. If the water has a taste or an odor to it, we may complain about it, alter the quality and sometimes stop drinking from the public water supply. Rumors of misunderstood information and past practices may also curb consumption. We do not have the luxury of a great lake or massive river for a source. It is the City Fathers responsibility as well as I, to insure Van Wert maintains an adequate supply of water year round.
Since 1891 the City of Van Wert Water Department has been providing drinking water to the citizens of Van Wert. The quality of our water is achieved by protecting our source water (reservoirs) and by investing in and maintaining a modern water treatment plant. The safety of the water is confirmed through rigorous testing. A typical year, the water plant staff conducts more than 6,000 tests for more than 50 drinking water contaminants. Our Plant personnel, who are State certified, also run over 22,500 tests for various water quality parameters in the same year. In the event that there are substances we cannot test for at the Plant, samples are sent to private laboratories for analysis.
Your Water Treatment Plant is regulated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Ohio EPA. Meeting these regulations and providing palatable water in unison is a challenging responsibility. The Water Treatment Plant is staffed by six operators. The plant processes water seven days a week. The Van Wert Water Treatment Plant has operators at each level of State qualification for Water Plant Operations. Laboratory certification to perform water quality analysis is also held by the entire WTP staff. Continuing education to further operators’ water knowledge and qualifications is an ongoing process keeping up to date with current regulations and treatment techniques.
HOW WE TREAT OUR WATER
The water that the people of Van Wert use and drink comes from Town Creek. This is the name of the stream that flows through our City. East of the reservoirs are two pumping stations that we use to fill the reservoirs when stream flow is great enough to allow the pumps to be operated. The pump stations can pump 48.96 million gallons of water per day when all eight pumps are running. Since 1951 the creek has provided as little as 180 million gallons and as much as 1.26 billion gallons in a calendar year. The capacity of our reservoirs is 1.01 billion gallons and can supply Van Wert for theoretically 21 months. However; the bottom 2 feet is not available and evaporation depletes resources further so our reservoirs should provide Van Wert Water for 15 – 16 months.
As the raw water enters the Plant, potassium permanganate is added to remove any bad taste and odors. After taste and odor treatment, the water flows to the clarifiers. The clarifiers are the large white and gray domes that are on the north side of the Plant. As the water enters the clarifiers, lime and ferric chloride are added. These chemicals react with dirt and silt in the water to make them stick together, thus increasing their weight so they will settle to the bottom of the clarifiers. This process of adding chemicals is known as coagulation & sedimentation or clarification. An added benefit is lime softening. The material that settles to the bottom is known as lime sludge. This sludge is pumped to lime lagoons where it is stored. The sludge is conditioned until it is dry enough to be loaded into trucks. The sludge is then hauled to farmers and is utilized to adjust soil pH and increase the calcium content of the soil.
As water travels from the clarifiers, fluoride and carbon dioxide are added. Fluoride is added because it has been proven to decrease cavities. Statistics have shown that communities that fluoridate drinking water have a noticeable decrease in cavities compared to communities that do not. Carbon dioxide lowers the pH of the water and stabilizes it so that invisible particles of lime and other minerals will not stick to the inside of the water mains or interior plumbing.
After recarbonization, the addition carbon dioxide, water is filtered. In the filtration process, water is passed through approximately 30 inches of special filter sand. The filters are among the last lines of defense in water treatment. They ensure that most turbidity particles are removed as well as any larger particles that may be present. From the filters, water flows to a 500,000-gallon underground water storage chamber.
The last method of treatment that we utilize to provide safe drinking water is disinfection. Chlorine, the last chemical added, is used to kill bacteria and viruses that may be present in the water. A raw surface water source, like we utilize in Van Wert, may contain bacteria and viruses that can make a person sick, primarily with flu-like symptoms, if consumed without disinfection.
Pumps inside the Water Plant transport your drinking water to you through approximately 70 miles of water main. Water that is not immediately used is stored in the water towers for future use. The City has two water towers, one contains 400,000 gallons of water and the other contains 500,000 gallons.
HOW DO I PARTICIPATE IN DECISIONS CONCERNING MY DRINKING WATER?
Public participation and comments are encouraged at all City Council meetings. The meetings are held on the second and fourth Mondays of each month and begin at 6:30 P.M. Council meetings are held at 515 East Main Street on the second floor in the City Council Chambers.
For more information on your drinking water contact, Donald Lippi, Water Plant Supervisor, at 238-1417, or Jay Fleming, Safety-Service Director, at 238-1237. Or look up PWS (Public Water System) OH8100611 on the OEPA website.