TROY — We drink it, cook with it and bathe in it. And these days, we most likely take it for granted — clean water.
Clean, drinkable water is something most people don’t think about on a daily basis unless you are city of Troy’s water treatment plant Superintendent Jeff Monce and his crew who man the water plant 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Yet, with the Flint, Michigan lead poisoning crisis, water and its purity is on the forefront of many people’s minds.
Changing water sources, not adding the right treatment chemicals, and aging infrastructure caused a perfect storm to strike Flint, Michigan. When the city switched from Lake Huron water pumped from Detroit to Flint River water, brown and yellowish water flowed from the taps before residents took their complaints to the airwaves.
According to reports, in 2013, Flint officials decided to pump water from the Flint River, treat it, and sell it to residents instead of using water from Lake Huron by way of Detroit’s water distribution, in attempts to reportedly save $10 million a year in water costs. When the switch began in April 2013, the water was so toxic and corrosive it even damaged the city’s GM plant’s engine parts on the production line. The plant then switched back to Lake Huron water from a nearby township. The water was not only corrosive, it was toxic, poisoning more than 200 children who have tested positive for lead poisoning.
“Not all the accounts are saying the same things…but it appears they were aware (of the potential hazards) when they switched source water,” Monce said. “Anytime (a municipality) switches source water, like if we were to do it, the state of Ohio would require us to do a study on what we were switching to and what that may entail.”
“It’s mind-boggling that this could happen — I can’t comprehend how this could happen in the city of Troy,” Monce said. “We’re not a perfect place, we’ve been funded well, we take care of it. We have good source water and it’s stable. Every so often, once in a blue moon, we have problems, but they don’t last very long. It’s never to the extent to get something like (Flint, Mich. crisis) going on. It’s almost incomprehensible.”
Monce said the city of Troy’s water source is one of its strengths due to being located along one of the largest aquifers in the world called The Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer (GMBVA), which is the city’s source of drinking water.
“It is calculated to hold 1.5 trillion gallons of water. This is an enormous water bearing sand and gravel formation associated with the Great Miami River that basically extends from Logan County to the Ohio River,” Monce said. “It ranges from 30 to 300 feet in depth and 1 to 3 miles is width. It is one of the largest aquifers in the world. The aquifer is constantly replenished by precipitation, underground sources and riverbed filtration.”
Monce said there are many advantages the city of Troy drawing its water from an underground aquifer as opposed to surface water sources like the Flint River or Troy’s very own Great Miami River.
“Troy water has been great for years, other than a few boil advisories here and there just as necessary precautions. We’re real consistent,” Monce said. “We’ve got all the resources here and we use them right. We’re lucky to have the source of water that we have. We are fortunate to have the support, the staff and the facility that we have.”
Monce said Troy’s aquifer water source has many advantages which include consistent quality and quantity, as well as reduced contaminant potential like bacteria and microorganisms. Aquifer water also has low cloudiness, low nitrate, phosphorous and pesticide levels.
For example, the city of Piqua’s water sources are all surface water systems, which include the Great Miami River, the Ernst gravel pit and the Swift Run Lake, Echo Lake, Franz Pond and hydraulic system.
Monce said ground water sources also aren’t subject to threats such as blue-green algal blooms. The disadvantages of drawing water from aquifers includes high mineral content, high calcium hardness and increased alkalinity, and the costs for the development, operation and protection of well fields.
The next installment will examine infrastructure of the city’s water distribution and how the city’s water plant tests its water for quality assurance.
Reach Melanie Yingst at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @Troydailynews