OEPA to use Gallipolis water mapping suggestions

By Dean Wright - deanwright@civitasmedia.com

GALLIPOLIS — With the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to avoid problems that occur in places like Flint, Mich., the agency is taking some nods from efforts made from the Gallipolis city water system.

In accordance with the Ohio General Assembly’s House Bill 512, city workers have been asked to map out the waterlines in town in order to account for copper and lead contamination. According to City Manager Gene Greene and City Water Treatment Operator Bradie Angell, the state handed city workers examples of how to go about their reporting efforts and workers improved on the methods of reporting in such a fashion that the OEPA will now reportedly use examples from the city’s work to improve upon its work across the state with other town water systems.

“With the house bill they didn’t give us much to go on as far as guidelines,” said Angell.”So (workers) were confused. They had sent me a couple of examples of systems that had been sent to (the state) already and then their comments on what needed corrected. So I just played off of that.”

Angell said the city needed to relay to the state what areas were at risk for low and high risk metallic contamination.

“We don’t have anything that is really high risk,” said Angell. “We do have a few places that still have lead jointed mains, which unless their becomes a problem with (water) sampling, they’re not a problem we don’t have to replace them. That’s all the mapping was. We know where our existing waterlines are and what they’re made of. We just had to go through and color-code it.”

Along with the color-coding system, Angell said the examples she received from the state did not have narratives explaining why a particular pipeline may be low or high risk for contamination. Gallipolis took the time to explain why an area may be at risk and the state wished to emulate that. According to Angell, the state wanted to use the city’s narrative across other municipalities to explain why an area may become contaminated.

Angell noted that there were no areas that held a no risk status based on the age of community structures in the municipality because the city was unaware of what residents may have for indoor plumbing.

“Somebody that still has copper lines may have lead solder on them,” said Angell. “That’s still a low risk even though it’s nothing that we can do as a water system. That structure is still low risk for possible lead contamination.”

Angell noted this was why the city would explain risk areas because many buildings in Gallipolis operate on aged plumbing within private property.

According to Brent McCreedy, a Gallipolis water treatment plant representative, he said in a Tribune story last year the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency asks that the water plant run all manner of testing on water in town in order to make certain serviced individuals are safe when consuming water. Typically, the state asks the water plant to test for lead every three years. The last formal test was made in 2013. McCreedy says the water plant will be testing for lead formally again in 2016, starting with June and ending near September.

According to Gallipolis water treatment employees, the town water treatment plant last summer sampled water leaving the plant and found the lead level was less than .05 ppb (parts per billion), which is the lowest detectable limit of an outside testing laboratory.

Both Angell and Greene said recent city and state water contaminant investigations were being done in order to avoid the kind of problems that were being found in places like Flint, Mich.

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.

By Dean Wright