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The Press Newspaper

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Officials in the Village of Oak Harbor hope an engineering study underway will detect leaks and offer ways to plug its hemorrhaging water line system.

At present, the Oak Harbor water distribution system has a whopping 42 percent water loss rate, according to the estimates of Interim Village Administrator Randy Genzman.

“We eat a lot of those costs,” he noted.

Leaks and major breaks attributed to aging waters lines, improperly installed lines and an old metering system are all cited as causes.

Courtney and Associates crews are now looking for clues. Village council approved a two-part contract earlier this spring – a $17,000 study evaluates the water problems and another $5,000 goes toward calculating electrical system issues.

In early May, Genzman said he anticipated receiving some comprehensive answers from the engineering firm by July.

Although some of the newer council members were hesitant to lead the village into yet another study, councilwoman Jackie Macko said she believed this was the only way for her and others to learn what the problems are.

She acknowledged she knew little about the system’s operation and needed guidance to make informed decisions.

Macko has taken an extended tour of the village wastewater plant and water distribution system to familiarize herself with the facilities topping the list of major village issues. The village oversees the water distribution system throughout its water district but receives the actual water from the Ottawa County Regional Water System. Billing is also done in-house.

The last water and sewer study undertaken by the village occurred in early 2012. The only result of that study was the phased-in increase of sewer related rates, according to councilman Jon Fickert.

None of the long term goals included in the system were seriously addressed beyond that point, he contends, and major problems have expanded across most of the utility systems.

The newer Salem Township Sewer District is one of the central problem areas for that utility.

“It’s getting a lot of rainwater in the system,” Genzman said.

Genzman has sought the expertise of the Ottawa County Sanitary Engineering Office.

“We’re looking to do an I & I study,” he said at a recent council meeting, referring to capturing inflow and infiltration numbers. “They have some experience that I think we can build on.”

The Village of Genoa has also been on a campaign to revamp faulty electrical and water meters the last few years to quell system losses.

Water meter changes are complete. And Genoa village crews recently wrapped up the final phase of electrical meter upgrades, concentrating on meters that read loads at commercial properties. Residential changes were the first part of the three-year program, according to Genoa Village Administrator Kevin Gladden.

“We used to read them by hand. It was the old dial type. But even though they are tested every three years we had a number of problems with them,” he said.

Technologies over the last decade have made considerable strides in more reliable reading systems. Under the old water-reading meter system, the difference between the outside and inside readings could be a couple of hundred gallons difference, Gladden said.

The same is true for Oak Harbor water meters. Replacing the electrical and water meter systems could be a costly venture, Genzman told council, but it’s something that may need serious consideration.

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