The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper


Toledo to start $8 million construction to remove toxins

Last August, Toledo made national news when microcystin, a toxin created by invasive algae in Lake Erie, poisoned the city’s drinking water.

The algae can be difficult to control naturally and the toxin it produces can cause liver damage if ingested. As a result of high levels of microcystin, the city issued a three-day drinking water ban covering the Toledo service area, which includes 108,501 service taps and about 500,000 residents.

Steps have already been taken to ensure it does not happen again.

Construction is set to begin at the Collins Park Water Treatment plant in February on an $8.3 million temporary fix to reduce the possibility microcystin will foul Toledo’s water again this summer.

“What we’re talking about is an added barrier for the toxin,” Andrew McClure, plant administrator, said. “It would be a temporary kind of stop that would be incorporated into the future.”

Warren Henry, city program manager, agreed that the additional barrier is an extra precaution.

Toledo Water Treatment Plant Administrator Andrew McClure talks
to media during a tour of the Collins Park facility in East Toledo.
(Press photo by J. Patrick Eaken)

“We’re adding dependability and reliability. We can put in temporary facilities that can help the situation out,” said Henry.

The construction, expected to be completed by July, is being financed by a zero percent interest loan from Ohio’s Water Supply Revolving Loan Account (WSRLA). Administered by Ohio EPA’s Division of Drinking and Ground Waters and Division of Environmental and Financial Assistance, the WSRLA provides below market interest rates for compliance related improvements to public water systems.

Toledo is expected to charge an additional $3.08 per year on residential bills to service the $415,000 annual debt.

An Ohio EPA report from December 2014 states the project “will yield significant health benefits by allowing treatment of algal toxins during the harmful algal bloom season.”

There will be no public meetings before construction begins at the water plant, located in East Toledo. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has already approved the project. The public comment period ended last week.

Plant upgrade
Plans call for Toledo to install additional Powder Activated Carbon (PAC) and potassium permanganate feeding systems at its low service pump station at the plant. Potassium permanganate in large enough doses breaks up algal cells. PAC absorbs the microtoxin that is released, which is then removed from the water during treatment.

The upgrade includes the addition of a 100-foot high storage silo for PAC, a chemical feed control building and appurtenant piping within the fenced grounds of the low service pump station, which will increase the absorption of organic compounds, including toxins, during the six-hour detention time of the water in the force main.

Also proposed is additional PAC feed systems, which will entail the installation of two 70-feet high chemical storage silos with appurtenant controls and piping on the north side of Collins Park.

Separate equipment contracts have been awarded and are currently in the fabrication process. A construction bid is expected to be awarded within two to three weeks.

“It’s truly remarkable — from the time this whole event happened back in August - to be in the position we are in now and have all this in place by July. It just speaks volumes to the cooperation between the Ohio EPA, the city, and the consulting community to get this done,” Henry said.

Toledo is also researching a long-term plan. The city is evaluating two alternative permanent microtoxin control methods — ozone treatment and granular active carbon treatment. In the environmental report, the EPA states that the ultimate plan may be a combination of both approaches.

Henry says the city received a $1.3 million loan from the Ohio EPA for research, which is underway. National engineering firm ARCADIS, based in Colorado with a branch office in downtown Toledo, is taking the lead on laboratory research. Pilot testing has begun, with recommendations expected to be implemented within two to three years. Planning and construction of permanent algal controls at the plant would extend well into future harmful algal bloom seasons.

A $300 million five-year permanent upgrade at the plant, originally built in 1941, was already underway when the water crisis hit. The improvements include new piping, filtration modifications, and basin upgrades.

“Of that $300 million, about $139 million is for upgrade modernization or replacement,” Henry said. “In 2014, we either had $31 million completed or work underway. In 2015, we’re programming another $47 million that will be in construction.”

Plant tour
After the water crisis, a reporter from The Press took a tour of the Collins Park plant where drinking water treatment processes were explained.

Except for handling microcystin to meet safe drinking standards, the plant is capable of eliminating other toxins that could potentially pollute the water system.

The Toledo water system draws its water from the western basin of Lake Erie through an intake, located in 24 feet of water three miles offshore from Reno Beach. Water flows from the intake via gravity to the low service pump station through a 108-inch diameter intake pipe buried under the lake. The intake has within it lines potassium permanganate from the low service pump station for the treatment of zebra mussels, an invasive species that fuels toxic algae blooms in the lake.

Water is treated with PAC at the low service pump station for taste and odor control and is pumped to Collins Park via approximately nine miles of dual water lines that are 78 inches and 60 inches in diameter.

The plant, which is rated at a maximum of 120 million gallons per day (MGD), treats water by rapid mix, flocculation, sedimentation, re-carbonation, filtration, and detention followed by high service pumping to the distribution system. Demand averages 79 MGD, with higher flows in the summer at 96 MGD compared to winter’s 71 MGD.

During filtration, water travels at a rate of 1,500 gallons per minute through each of 30 filters. Chlorine is then added with the flexibility to increase or lower the amount based on what is needed. Each filter has a 10 to 20 year life before it has to be replaced and is backwashed daily to keep clean.

Aluminum sulfate, lime, soda ash, polyphosphate, fluoride and chlorine dioxide are also added during treatment.


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