Utilities board approves projects to meet state mandates

SALEM – The city Utilities Commission gave the go-ahead Tuesday for two different projects aimed at keeping their facilities in compliance with state regulations, including one to screen out manufactured inerts or non-biodegradable materials.

“This is what we’re all facing in the business,” Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart said.

He explained that the state of Ohio put a regulation in place requiring all wastewater treatment facilities that land apply waste sludge on farm fields to screen all inert materials and remove them 5/8 inch and above from the wastewater stream. The screening devices must be in place by July 1, 2015.

The regulation specifically addresses manufactured inerts which are considered solid waste and should be disposed of in a landfill. Weingart told the commission the younger generation is using materials advertised as flushable which are not biodegradable.

The materials are causing what he described as “horrific conditions” in the collection system and causing pump problems. Those materials can’t be placed on agricultural land as part of the sludge which comes out of the sewage treatment plant.

The commission gave authorization for the hiring of Burgess & Niple Inc. to design and request a permit to install from the state and construct the headworks modifications necessary at the plant to comply with the land application requirements.

The estimated cost of the project was $1.5 million, which includes engineering and a contingency fund.

“We have no choice in this – we have to comply,” Commission Chairman Bob Hodgson said.

For the other project, estimated to cost $104,000, Burgess & Niple Inc. will design plans to improve the flow and circulation of potable water into the Stewart Road Reservoir to reduce the formation of chlorine by-products, which have become an issue with both the state and federal agencies.

Hodgson said that’s another federal mandate.

In other matters, the commission heard an update on the number of property owners who have applied for taps into the new sewer lines for the Painter Road, Brooklyn Avenue and Depot Road project.

The commission approved a water and sewer service application for Charles McShane for a new condo construction on Orchard Bend Drive.

The commission also agreed to accept payment of the average sewer bill for an unusually high bill for James and Pauline Spratt of West Perry Street. City workers caught a water problem the elderly residents didn’t know about, with repairs made. The problem resulted in a bill of $270 for water and sewer when the bill is normally $18. Patricia Silverman, property manager of Salem Senior Housing, asked for help on behalf of the couple.

The commission routinely requires customers to pay the water portion of a high bill caused by a mechanical problem because the water has been used , but waives the excess sewer charge since it’s clean water going through the system. Instead of paying $168 for the sewer portion, the Spratts will pay $10, along with the $102 for the water portion of the bill.

The next commission meeting is set for 3 p.m. Nov. 12.