Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, Sept. 18 newspaper on Page A5.
HAMDEN — After a community meeting to gather public opinion about Hamden’s water system, Hamden Village Council members noted they would investigate a revamped contract with Wellston City Water.
Another temporary solution council members decided upon was to flush water systems on both sides of the village on the same day.
The meeting, held at the Hamden Community Building on Sept. 10, was in response to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stepping in to address a contamination issue with Hamden water.
Glenn Decker of Sands-Decker Engineering, who came to speak at the community meeting and is working with village council to weigh its options, noted that part of the problem the village is facing is due to the “age” of the water. Wellston must maintain a certain amount of chlorine in its water, but as the water sits, a chlorinated by-product is created.
Over the span of last year, Hamden drinking water had an average total Haloacetic acid levels of 0.0064 milligrams per liter. The MCL for water systems is 0.0060.
Haloacetic acids, also commonly known as HAAs or HAA5, is a by-product of chlorine interacting with naturally occurring materials in water. Chlorine is used as a disinfectant for water systems.
Decker noted one option the village could explore, one council has been contemplating for some time, is to switch water companies, likely to Jackson County Water Company.
Over a long period of exposure and in an amount exceeding the MCL, HAAs have been known to cause cancer. However, the Hamden Village Water Department reported that the water currently does not pose an immediate health risk to those using it. The department’s notice issued earlier this year stated the water is safe to drink, but residents with specific health concerns should consult their doctors.
The Ohio EPA is the regulatory authority of public water systems. Standards for contamination are set by this state entity, and the village faces heavy fines if it doesn’t come into compliance with those standards.
“Council will have to make a choice on what’s best for our village,” Hamden mayor Mike Woodruff said. “Health-wise and finance-wise. And we’re not here to bash Wellston. We’re just trying to fix the problem.”
Jackson County Water Company utilizes a well water system, and thus the higher than desired chlorinated by-product levels the Ohio EPA wants the village to address would no longer be an issue. Wellston City Water utilizes a surface water system.
Community attendees voiced issues such as the rising costs of their water bills, as well as concern over student attending the local elementary school. South Elementary has been using office-style water dispensers and paper cones during the school day as an additional safety precaution.
The village’s contract with Wellston expires in February of 2020. The Ohio EPA, according to Woodruff, has voiced its willingness to hold back on fines if the village wishes to re-negotiate a contract with Wellston come February.
Woodruff told The Courier that Village Council will ultimately have to do whatever the Ohio EPA allows it to do.
Hamden Village Council members also noted to community attendees that the Vinton County Development Department applied for Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) funding for the Village of Hamden in case it were to decide to make a switch to Jackson County Water Company.
Development Director Terri Fetherolf noted that this application was approved by the commissioners solely to “stake out a spot” for the village if it decided to go the route of switching companies. ARC has not approved the application as of yet.