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Published: Saturday, 1/15/2005

Plans to expand treatment plant gain momentum

PUT-IN-BAY, Ohio - Officials from South Bass Island and Ottawa County have agreed to expand Put-in-Bay's water treatment plant as part of a $5.2 million plan to replace well service for businesses and other public facilities outside the village.

The project, which awaits approval by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, was proposed in response to last summer's outbreak of gastrointestinal illness on the island. County and state health officials said they suspect the illnesses were linked to well water contaminated by malfunctioning septic systems in Put-in-Bay Township.

"The village system has always proven to be a very good system," Ottawa County Commissioner Carl Koebel said. "This is going to get that very good water out to some of the areas surrounding the village."

Dina Pierce, a spokesman for Ohio EPA, said the agency hopes to approve the expansion within a month. "Given the circumstances out there, this is a high priority for us," she said.

County and village officials don't expect the expansion to cover the entire island, but believe they'll be able to provide water to all areas that serve water to the public.

The expansion, which officials believe will take two to three years to complete, would increase the plant's daily capacity from 290,000 gallons to 743,000 gallons. Village Administrator David Gruet said peak demand during the summer has been 250,000 gallons a day, meaning the enlarged plant would have more than enough capacity even with new customers.

Village, township, and county officials considered several options for extending water service on the island, including running underwater lines from Catawba Island Township at an estimated cost of more than $11 million.

"This seemed to be the least expensive of all the alternatives," Mr. Gruet said.

The construction timetable depends on how long it takes local officials to find grants to help fund the project.

Besides the expansion, the village also plans to tweak the current plant to add capacity for this year's tourist season. The $400,000 project will raise the treatment plant's maximum output to 438,000 gallons a day, enough to supply drinking water - some of it to be delivered by truck - to all existing public facilities in the township areas of the island, Mr. Gruet said.

The idea, he added, is "to at least be able to supply water to some of the people who had problems last year."

The village, township, and county have obtained $250,000 from the Ohio Public Works Commission for that project. The rest will come from user fees, Mr. Gruet said.

In a related matter, Ohio EPA has issued draft wastewater discharge permits to package plants at four township facilities. They include Ohio State University's Stone Laboratory and Bird's Nest Resort, 5,000 gallons per day apiece, and Clinster's and Victory Park Resort, 1,500 gallons a day each.

Draft discharge permits were issued last year for the Miller Boat Line and Fox's Den Campground. Ms. Pierce said EPA is waiting to receive a permit application from one township business, the Skyway Lounge.

The agency requested permit applications from the facilities after learning during the illness investigation that it did not have paperwork from any of them. Ms. Pierce said none of the package plants was linked to the gastrointestinal outbreak, which sickened about 1,450 people.

- STEVE MURPHY



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