Upgrades needed at Covington water plant

COVINGTON — Members of the Covington Village Council heard a presentation recently regarding pressing issues with the village’s aging and deteriorating wastewater treatment plant.

According to Village Services Supervisor Mike Weber, the plant was first constructed in the early 1940s. One of the clarifiers built during these early years has recently broken, Weber said during the Nov. 2 council meeting.

“This clarifier is part of the original wastewater plant, and we’ve had it finally give up on us,” Weber said.

A new clarifier, Weber said, would cost somewhere between $15,000 to $25,000. A replacement is needed as soon as possible, he added.

Weber also explained to council the wastewater plant’s most recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency, which is from 2017.

“(The EPA) basically said, ‘Look, this plant’s not going to handle our new regulations coming up. We’re going to give you the next three or four years to make arrangements for it,’ and we kind of sat on our hands, I guess,” Weber said. “There are new regulations coming up for phosphate regulation … and our plant’s not equipped to come anywhere close to trying to remove phosphorous.”

Council also heard from Mote & Associates Environmental Project Manager Dave Mathews, who gave an overview of the wastewater plant and its growing issues.

According to Mathews, after its initial construction in 1941, the wastewater plant had a small expansion in 1956, along with the addition of the effluent structure in 1968, which was replaced in 2017. In the same year, a structure was built to replace the old chlorine disinfection system. In 2019, new blowers were added.

The plant’s largest upgrade was completed in 1980, Mathews said, which increased capacity to 750,000 gallons per day.

Along with natural aging, Mathews pointed out that Covington’s plant also does not perform efficiently, resulting in wasted energy usage.

Mathews also referenced 2017 correspondence from the EPA regarding the village’s water plant and its capabilities.

“There’s a note that says, ‘Plant is not presently capable of meeting expected nutrient removal requirements.’ They’re trying to tell you something here,” Mathews said. “I’ve been working with the EPA for about 30 years now and when they put little comments in there like that, they’re giving you a warning.”

Other issues, Mathews said, include sludge management, or lack thereof, and high levels of expended compounds, chemicals and solids into the nearby waterway, which will soon be more extensively regulated by the EPA.

Mathews said there are areas of the plant that are essentially “falling apart,” with issues of erosion due to aging and years of wear and tear, as well as unsafe working conditions due to some outdated safety protocol.

The inside of the treatment plant building is also very outdated and “tired,” according to Mathews.

Covington’s plant is also taking in waste from area businesses, which Mathews referred to as “indirect dischargers.” These are companies that discharge above-normal quantities of water to be treated.

Along with the water discharged comes toxic elements and compounds. This is tracked by the EPA and turned into what the agency refers to as a “toxic release inventory.” Mathews presented a list of Covington’s indirect dischargers and explained how concentrated levels of waste from these businesses are costing the village.

Mathews also provided some examples to council of updated wastewater treatment plants in areas like Botkins and Arcanum so council members have a visual idea of what any plant upgrades may look like.

The construction of a new wastewater treatment plant would take five to six years to complete, Mathews said, and the price is roughly estimated to total around $18 per gallon, so the cost for a 750,000-gallon-per-day plant would be about $13.5 million.

According to Mayor Ed McCord, the purpose of Monday’s presentation was to get council members up to speed as to the current condition of the wastewater treatment plant. McCord said a discussion will be held at the next meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m., regarding next steps.