EAST PALESTINE - With two councilmen opposed, Village Council this week approved replacing a tank that holds 275,000 gallons and is the village's primary water supply.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) ordered the village to replace the tank's flexible cover roof with a solid roof in the early 2000s but recently requested the village construct an above-ground tank to replace the in-ground tank instead.
The Wheathill Road reservoir brick tank was built in 1889.
Dante Fiorino, of MS Consultants, said in March the EPA wants the village to replace the tank because of standing water on top and also because the brick structure is making it difficult for inspections to be conducted. The tank's interior is supposed to be inspected every five years and it has been nearly 14 years since the last inspection, former Village Manager Gary Clark said in March.
Over the last few months council members have debated whether to rehabilitate the tank-which is less expensive-or replace the tank per the OEPA recommendation.
The OEPA has since ordered the village to make a decision by April 29 and submit a preliminary project schedule.
Gary Diorio, of MS Consultants, said that after considering the options replacing the tank is the best route.
"The end result is it's too costly for the lifespan that you would get out of the rehab," he said.
Replacing the tank is estimated to cost $515,000 and rehabilitation is estimated at little more than $200,000.
Fiorino said the new tank estimate includes engineering and inspection, some demolition and removal of the old tank, and site restoration.
Finance Director Traci Thompson said the village already has $201,999 in the form of a grant and a $248,000 zero percent interest 20-year loan through the Ohio Public Works Commission.
She also said the village can apply for a 2 percent interest loan for the remainder through the Ohio Water Development Authority or Water Supply Revolving Loan Account available through the EPA.
Water and Wastewater Superintendent John Jurjavcic said rehabilitating the tank would result in a long-term interrupt in service while a new tank would have a short-term interrupt in service.
"I have mixed emotions. I'd like to see rehab-it's the cheapest way-but down the road the new one will (meet state standards)," he said.
In a letter to the village on March 30, MS Consultants said the EPA has labeled the existing reservoir a "significant deficiency" because it does not meet 10 state standards.
Violations include the poor condition of the roof and the inability to perform an inspection of the brick structure, according to the letter.
Councilman Fran Figley opposed replacing the tank.
"It all boils down in simple terms. We are getting bullied into getting a new tank. What is wrong with that tank now? After the last water test did we have no bacteria?" he said.
Council member Endia Wisser said in March that a water test at the reservoir showed there was no bacteria in the water tank.
"Why don't we fight to take it down, put a new liner in it and put a new dome on it?" Figley said.
In 1998, when the village discovered the tank's walls were deteriorating, the roof was removed and a bladder was inserted. It has exceeded its lifespan by about 15 years and its warranty has since expired.
Fiorino estimated that a new liner would cost about $90,000 and a new dome about $100,000.
Diorio said they could pursue that option but the main thing is that the rehabilitated tank would need to meet state standards.
"We don't want you to throw a lot of money at something that is going to give you a lot of trouble down the road," he said.
Councilman Scott Rauch said rehabilitating the tank would cause issues down the road since it likely wouldn't pass EPA standards.
"I guarantee it wouldn't work and we are going to have to put another tank in. My decision, my vote will be for a new tank. I don't think we need to gamble with $201,000. Put that toward the $515,000 and we're done," he said.
Councilman Sunny Hull agreed.
"Common sense would tell you if we are going to treat people fairly in this town I think the right thing to do would be to put in a new tank. I don't see it any other way," he said.
Council approved a new tank by a 4-2 vote, with Figley and Councilman Don Elzer opposed.