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Water company providing service to Winona still working to meet EPA standards

WINONA — The privately run water company that provides service to the community of Winona is still working to meet Ohio Environmental Protection Agency standards, and the system has been granted a conditional permit to operate through 2018.

The Winona Water Supply Cooperative Board was notified in late March by the Ohio EPA that it must meet the conditions set forth in the permit in order to provide service as a result of outstanding violations that need to be addressed.

Those violations include low pressure problems, which the water board has been working to address since late 2016.

Messages left with Winona Water Supply Cooperative Board trustees Dan Vingle and Homer Althouse were not returned last week.

In May of 2017, trustees said that the cost to fix the low pressure problem was more than the board could afford.

According to EPA correspondence with the board in June of 2017, the board planned to address problems by replacing the remaining section of waterline in 2018, installing the new equipment to correct the pressure issues in 2019 and removing the booster pumps in 2020.

The agency rejected that plan based on the fact that the timeline surpassed the EPA’s timeline of September 2019.

“It is the opinion of this office that the water pressure issues can be fixed and a second back-up water well drilled at a fraction of the $60,000 to $75,000 cost that was estimated during the May 24, 2017 meeting at the Columbiana County Engineer’s Office,” the EPA said in the June letter.

The agency gave the board a deadline of Sept. 9, 2017 to fix the low pressure problem.

The problem has persisted and on March 23 of this year the EPA notified the board of the conditional license.

“The Ohio EPA has serious concerns about the water system and the agency has reached out to the water board, inviting the board to meet with us to negotiate an agreement that will address the outstanding issues,” said Dina Pierce said, Ohio EPA media coordinator for the northwest and southwest districts.

She explained a conditional license to operate is part of the agency’s enforcement process and that if the requirements detailed in the conditional license are met, an unconditional license to operate can be issued for 2019.

If requirements are not met, but significant progress has been made, another conditional license can be granted, she added.

Conditions of the 2018 license include submitting a plan to the EPA to address low pressure problems and removal of booster pumps, implementing a backflow prevention and cross-connection control program, and maintaining a minimum chlorine residual of at least two-tenths milligram per liter free chlorine.

Other requirements were also outlined in the letter.

“If issues are not corrected, the Ohio EPA can take additional enforcement action. The most important factor is to make sure drinking water is being produced that meets Safe Drinking water Act standards to protect public health,” Pierce said.

She explained the enforcement options include continuation of the conditional license, and/or legal orders requiring improvements to be made and a deadline for the improvements.

Another option is to refer the system to the attorney general’s office for enforcement.

She added that, in extreme cases, the Ohio EPA can suspend, deny or revoke a license to operate, which would mean the system could not provide water for the community.

If a license is revoked, a system could supply water again if problems are corrected, she said.

“Ohio EPA makes it a priority to work with public water systems to resolve violations and make the repairs and upgrades needed to continue providing a safe, plentiful supply of water to the communities they serve. The agency is eager to continue working with the Winona public water system to resolve these issues,” Pierce said.

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