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Salem plant upgrade bidding still years away

SALEM — An overdue upgrade of the Salem water treatment plant won’t get to the bidding stage for a couple of years, but a preliminary scoping study of what’s needed already resulted in one move Thursday.

The Salem Utilities Commission agreed to have a cleaning process done on two filters rather than replacing the media for the filters now since an overhaul of the plant is already planned in the near future.

Andrew Taylor, president of Water Service Professionals of Jamison, Pa., told the commission replacing the media for the filters at this point would be a waste of money. The cost for cleaning both is $40,000 while the cost for replacing both would be upwards of $90,000, Commission Chairman Bob Hodgson said.

Based on what commission members heard during the special meeting to go over the scoping for the water treatment plant, he said it sounded like they should go forward with cleaning rather than replacing since the other filters at the plant will be replaced during the overhaul project.

“I think it makes sense,” Commission Vice Chair Randy Malmsberry said.

The special meeting with representatives of Alfred Benesch & Company took almost two and a half hours, with environmental group manager James Rhoades doing the presentation.

He explained that the project scoping study was done to identify the needs of the aging water treatment plant, which was built in 1952 and last updated in 1992. The report gave commission members the preliminary findings to date on what may be recommended or suggested to improve the plant’s overall operation. The plant is located off of Gamble Road near the Salem reservoir, also known as the city lake.

Rhoades said part of the trigger for the work was dealing with trihalomethanes, which are a form of disinfection byproduct that can cause problems for a water system. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency only permits a certain level of THM in a water system.

He said the finished report should be done by the end of the year, then they’ll put some alternatives together and prepare a draft scope of work, figure out the priorities, then present the final plan of recommendations for the commission to decide upon. At this point, the early estimated cost for the plant upgrade has a range of $9 million to $15 million, but the numbers are very preliminary.

Rhoades also explained how the engineering firm controls costs and how they’ll have a good idea of what may lie ahead if something unexpected happens during the project that could increase costs.

Hodgson said this was what they needed, to get a better idea of what they’re facing to upgrade the plant.

In another water plant matter, plant manager Larry Sebrell issued a public thank you to 30 water customers who supplied samples this year for lead and copper testing. He said it’s a lot of work for them and he appreciated their willingness to help out.

Mayor John Berlin also issued a thank you to the commission members and department personnel for holding a lengthy work session to learn what’s needed at the water plant.

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