The City of Washington C.H. provides consumers with drinking water that exceeds Environmental Protection Agency standards, according to the city’s 2015 Drinking Water Consumer Confidence Report.
The report was published last week and provides residents with a comprehensive view of last year’s water quality test results and information.
In 30 years the city has never had an EPA violation for the drinking water, according to David Gardner, the water plant supervisor of the City of Washington Court House. Gardner has been testing and maintaining the drinking water for city residents for nine years. He is one of four operators licensed to maintain the Class III water plant. As a class III water plant, it must meet certain Ohio Revised Code laws and Environmental Protection Agency policies to maintain its operation.
The water plant exceeds those regulations and policies. The EPA requires testing to be done every four hours, but the water plant at Washington C.H. does testing every two hours, said Gardner.
”We do four series of tests per shift. We’re open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, we don’t ever shut down. I got guys working Christmas, Christmas Eve, we’re open all the time. That’s 12 tests a day times 365, that tells you what we’re doing,” said Gardner.
The water plant has the capacity to put out three million gallons of water a day, said Gardner, but currently gives out about 1.1 million gallons to residents each day. That number only includes those residents living within the city limits of Washington C.H.
The water plant draws most of its water from Paint Creek, which means it is surface water.
“Don’t swim in the creek. Don’t drink the creek water, it’s got chloroform in it. Our creek is a ditch. It is a big giant ditch fed by other ditches from every farmer and cattle farmer from here to Madison County. There’s a lot going on there as far as the water quality coming down. Ohio’s got a lot of farming,” said Gardner. “To battle that we do constant testing.”
The water plant pumps the raw surface water out of Paint Creek into the reservoirs.
“We’re very cautious about what we pump up into the reservoirs. If we have a rainy day, that’s when you get all of your run-off, we don’t pump,” said Gardner. “It’s run-off from the fields that we’re worried about. These microcystin and harmful algae blooms become a problem, they’ve got to be fed. All that run-off feeds that algae. Our goal is to put as little [nitrates] as possible into the reservoirs. We don’t want the run-off from the fields.”
The nitrates in the run-off from the fields can cause harmful algae blooms but, said Gardner, the water plant is testing for algae weekly and there is no harmful algae in the city water.
The raw water that comes in from Paint Creek is stored in reservoirs, and then the water is treated and output to residents. The water is highly monitored at each of those steps through a variety of different testing methods, according to Gardner.
“Turbidity is the amount of dirt or color in your water. The creek water out there right now would probably be about 60 to 70 in turbidity. This is what’s coming in from the reservoir: 9.91. This is what we’re putting out: .09 NTU. The EPA mandates that we can’t exceed a .5 ever and we can’t exceed a .3 more than 5 percent of our samples. We try hard never to get to a .3,” said Gardner.
The water plant measures the chlorine every 15 minutes automatically.
“We have to keep certain chlorine residuals. Then we measure chlorine here with these little units twice every shift. Then we take chlorine residuals at our system everyday. We take a system sample, we take a residual out there. Always check. We have to keep a bare minimum, we have to keep it below maximum: .2 (mg/L) is the least we can have, 4 (mg/L) is the highest we can have,” said Gardner.
Bacteria testing is done regularly to ensure safe drinking water, according to Gardner.
“Every week what we do is something called the Langelier test. We do it both from our plant tap and we do it from the system. We take system samples daily. Everyday you will see one of us out there taking a sample from somebody’s tap somewhere within the city. We do a tremendous amount of tests. We do 20 to 25 bacterial samples per month, of which we’ve never had a hit,” said Gardner.
The water plant tests help to ensure a consistently stable water is put out to residents, as the rain and natural conditions of the water can change conditions hourly.
“We take into account the temperature of the water, the pH of the water, your total calcium as calcium carbonate of the water, your alkalinity of the water, total dissolved solids in the water. We get these little numbers, they’re either a plus or minus. All of that information gets plugged into a big giant algorithmic equation on an Excel spreadsheet. It tells you where we’re at. No negative means you have a slightly scaling water. Zeros across the board would be completely neutral. Keep in mind, the water quality that comes into this plant changes daily, sometimes hour to hour, it’s naturally occurring water, it’s coming out of a reservoir that comes out of a creek,” said Gardner.
Those tests allow the water plant to keep the water balanced so that it is never corrosive or scaling, said Gardner, and the constant testing, monitoring, and treatment means Washington C.H. has a good quality of water.
”We do a lot of testing… we are cookbook chemists, as somewhat of a result,” said Gardner.
Reach Ashley at the Record-Herald (740) 313-0356 or on Twitter @ashbunton.