New rules, larger population affecting city's water utility
The City of Greencastle has 18 months, as of Oct. 7, to comply with a new Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) determination that is expected to require modifications to the city's water treatment plant.
New rules went into effect on Oct. 1, requiring a whole new calculation of chlorine contact time, Greencastle Utility Superintendent Robert Lovell explained to the Board of Works and Safety in a special meeting this week.
With Greencastle's population now surpassing the 10,000 mark (by 326 residents), the water utility has fallen under new, stricter guidelines, Lovell said.
What's driving all this is that IDEM has been empowered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make determinations concerning whether municipal systems using a groundwater source are under direct influence of surface water. That's according to a letter to Mayor Sue Murray from Patrick Carroll, chief of the Drinking Water Branch of the Indiana Office of Water Quality.
"This analysis," Carroll writes, "is to look at the construction of the well, geology of the area in which the well is located, the bacteriological content of the well's water, and any temperature or turbidity fluctuations."
A recent assessment of the Greencastle system has showed higher than normal groundwater temperatures.
"While normal ground temperature is about 55 degrees (plus or minus two or three degrees), the report documents a water temperature differential of about 14 degrees," Carroll's letter adds.
Based on the temperature differential supplied by the city water system, Wells, 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 have been determined to be under the direct influence of groundwater.
In addition, Carroll pointed out, Well 7 has tested positive for total coliform.
It is important to note, however, that the Greencastle water has never exceeded any safety levels, City Council President Adam Cohen stressed.
New state regulations, it was noted, require that a public water system that uses a groundwater source under the direct influence of surface water shall provide filtration in accordance with surface water treatment rules within 18 months of the date of notification.
In what essentially amounts to an unfunded mandate by EPA and IDEM, it appears as though Greencastle will need to construct a tank for additional treatment to provide chlorine contact after initial filtration of the water pumped from its wells.
That could mean a half-million-gallon to a million-gallon tank, to be funded solely by the city, it appears at this point.
However, no initial estimates of the costs involved, including hiring an engineering firm with experience in the field and moving on to construction, were available yet.
"We're not the first community and we won't be the last," Lovell told the Board of Works, explaining that IDEM has notified three or four other communities (Carmel and Anderson among them) that compliance is necessary, while another three or four cities are likely to be affected as well.
Compliance is already being addressed by Greencastle as Well 7 has been taken out of service and will remain out of service until two consecutive coliform-free samples are satisfactorily reported by a certified lab.
That well could still be used in emergency situations such as firefighting or a mechanical failure. If it becomes necessary to use Well 7, IDEM officials noted, "it should be the last on and the first off."
One of the main issues with that well, Lovell said, is its closeness in proximity to Big Walnut Creek.
The first step in the compliance process is a letter under Mayor Murray's signature to be sent to the aforementioned Carroll. The letter was approved unanimously Monday evening by the Board of Works, which includes Mayor Murray and citizen members Thom Morris and Trudy Selvia.
It states that the city is submitting its plan to become compliant within 18 months as outlined in the IDEM notification letter.
To help do that, the city has put together a three-member panel, consisting of the mayor, Utility Superintendent Lovell and Board of Works member Morris.
"The panel will send out requests for qualifications (RFQs) to a select group of engineers," the letter notes.
After an engineering firm is selected, the city and representatives of that firm will request a formal meeting with the IDEM Drinking Water Branch "to ensure that all requirements are met during the construction and modifications to the City of Greencastle water treatment plant."
The RFQ process is expected to be complete by the first week in December.
The specific outline for the permitting, treatment modifications, equipment specifications, completed construction and total cost analysis will be presented by the engineering firm on behalf of the city, Mayor Murray pointed out.
"The City of Greencastle," the mayor's letter concludes, "feels this is the only way to adequately ensure all regulatory requirements can be met in an efficient and timely manner, and ensure that the residents of the City of Greencastle will continue to receive the highest quality and safest drinking water possible."