The city is in talks to supply water to 4,000 customers in Yellow Springs, but the village first must decide the fate of its 50-year-old water plant.
Yellow Springs must choose whether to rehabilitate its water treatment plant, build a new plant or connect to Springfield’s water line.
“It’s a complicated issue,” Laura Curliss, village manager, said, “but we know we need to do something.”
If Yellow Springs connects to Springfield’s water line, it could significantly decrease bills for village residents.
However, some residents are concerned Springfield’s water may not be as safe as the water in Yellow Springs, fearing potential contaminants could leak from the Tremont City Barrel Fill and eventually enter the water supply.
According to village documents, it might need $3.1 million to $5.9 million to build a water plant.
The village this month approved a $15,000 study about rehabilitating its current water plant.
The cost of connecting to Springfield’s water line is still in the preliminary engineering phase. Projections for the options should be done by early June.
Village Council President Judith Hempfling said a decision must be made by July to seek grants for possible solutions, including rehabbing the current water plant.
“If costs become extreme, then it may not make it an option,” Hempfling said.
Council member Karen Wintrow said Springfield’s water quality is a key factor in making a connection to Springfield. Curliss said two-thirds of the village’s residents use water softeners, and many wouldn’t need them if water is supplied by Springfield. The village estimated residents spend a combined $419,000 per year on softening costs.
Springfield Service Director Chris Moore said the village would tie into the water supply near the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport. Officials and citizens from both Springfield and Yellow Springs recently toured each other’s water plants.
Moore said the city has the capacity. Yellow Springs requires 400,000 to 500,000 gallons of water per day, and the city produces approximately 12 to 13 million gallons daily.
“It seems like a favorable project for both sides,” Moore said.
The village would continue to own its well field and to operate distribution if it connects to Springfield’s water line. Yellow Springs estimates it would pay $1.86 per 1,000 gallons of finished water delivered by pipe from Springfield. With an additional cost of $3.37 per 1,000 gallons for distribution and other costs, the estimated baseline water rate would be $5.23 for softened water.
The village now charges $4.55 per 1,000 gallons, but staffers think the rate should be higher. At the village council meeting April 15, staff recommended council members raise the rate to $6 to help cover costs of treatment and distribution and small capital projects.
A recent study of the village’s water plant showed its losing approximately 50 percent of its water in an undetermined fashion, although it could possibly be a combination of leakage, unauthorized use, known free use like fire truck fill-ups or slow meters. The full findings are expected to be released June 3.
Springfield’s water rate remains one of the cheapest in the Miami Valley. According to the 2013 Oakwood Survey, of 66 jurisdictions surveyed, Springfield’s water was third-cheapest at $60.15 every three months, compared to $117.20 for Yellow Springs.
Springfield Finance Director Mark Beckdahl said, “I think we’re doing something that makes sense for both of us.”
Beckdahl said the city has a rate model for customers both inside and outside the city which helps cover operational costs and other capital needs.
“It’s not a question of making money on it,” Beckdahl said. “It’s a question of being able to provide enough money to cover operations and other capital needs to keep the system in good repair.”
Beckdahl said the city is proud that it can supply quality water at such an affordable rate.
“I think it’s good not only for our citizens daily, but it’s also something we can trump for economic development,” Beckdahl said.
Yellow Springs resident Vickie Hennessy, the president of the Green Environmental Coalition, said the village water supply is more protected than Springfield’s. She fears the village’s water could be contaminated from both the Tremont City Barrel Fill and the former Convey-It salt pile over time if it connects to Springfield’s water.
Hennessy said she doesn’t know how long it would take for any contamination to reach well fields. Some say the contaminants may be diluted by that time and won’t be harmful to residents.
“Do you want to drink diluted contaminants?” Hennessy asked. “I don’t.”
Hennessy said she’d rather have safe, clean water and local control rather than lower water bills.
“As they say, you can’t drink money,” Hennessy said.
She hopes the village will explore all options regarding the village’s water plant.
“Cost is the big issue here,” Hennessy said. “It’s definitely worth fixing up our own plant and controlling our own water.”
Hempfling and Wintrow both said they’re not concerned with Springfield’s water quality.
The village operates all of its own utilities, including electricity.
“It’s really a source of pride that we’re able to provide these services to our citizens,” Wintrow said. “Abandoning our water plant is a huge decision, one that will be very difficult to make. My personal view is that there would have to be some pretty compelling reasons, financial reasons, to do that.”
By the numbers
$3.1 million: The lowest estimated cost for Yellow Springs to build a new water plant.
400,000 gallons: The amount of water used per day by the village. Springfield’s water plant produces about 12 million gallons of water per day.
$117.20: The cost of three months of water in Yellow Springs, compared to $60.15 for Springfield residents.
City reporter Michael Cooper has written extensively on water protection issues, reporting on developments at the Tremont City Barrel Fill, the city’s stormwater utility and the upgrades at Springfield’s federally-mandated $50 million wastewater treatment plant upgrades. The News-Sun will continue to bring complete coverage on how water issues affect health, safety and economic development.