[USA] Wetzel said he is friends with a number of superintendents at plants along the Great Lakes and some of them are spending multiple millions of dollars to treat the algae issues.
“The water treatment plants are spending lots and lots of money treating this,” he said. “The key is going to be, for all of us, they have got to find a way to stop this algae in the (lake’s) Western Basin.”
Still, the Ottawa County Regional Water Treatment Plant is doing what it can to make improvements at the local level.
“The algae season isn’t quite as bad, for us at the water plant, as it was last year,” Wetzel said. “But it’s still been pretty bad.”
The EPA has certified the plant to operate at nine million gallons per day. The plant serves townships throughout the county, extending from Harris to Danbury and those in between, including Port Clinton and Oak Harbor.
“Our flow right now is down to about four million gallons,” Wetzel said. “From Memorial Day to Labor Day, we run five-to-six on the weekends. It tapers back during the week.”
As of right now, he said, the water quality itself is “pretty good,” but that can change quickly.
“The turbidity is not too bad,” he said. “Last weekend, it was real bad. It comes and goes with the current.”
Turbidity refers to the amount of cloudiness or haze in a fluid caused by large amounts of microscopic particles, an important measurement used to determine water quality.
Jeff Kukay, chief operator at the plant, said its microbiological laboratory just got new microscopes this year through a grant from the Ohio EPA.
“It’s been a very helpful tool because we can see in real-time what we have coming in to the water treatment plant,” Kukay said.
Kukay took a sample Wednesday on a slide and used the microscope to quickly identify a diatom, one of the groups of algae causing the clogs.
“The first part of the season we had a really heavy microcystis bloom,” Kukay said. “Then a couple of weeks later the diatoms started appearing.”
That sort of quick analysis is something made possible by the new microscope.
“In years past, we would know we were having a problem, but we weren’t able to identify it,” he said. “But now we can see exactly what’s going on. It’s been a very helpful tool for us.”
While this particular test for the diatoms is visual only, they also send samples to the water treatment plant in Oregon, where they get a quantifiable measure of the toxins in the water.
More specialized equipment is needed to measure the exact microcystis levels, which the local plant currently does not have. But it does have an agreement with Oregon to have a sample tested there for them each week.
All of the microcystis weekly measurements thus far this year and for last year can be seen on the Ottawa County Sanitary Engineering Department’s website.
But just doing the visual test daily gives them a much better idea of where they are on any given day compared to the previous, Wetzel said.
They perform that analysis on samples from Port Clinton’s, Oak Harbor’s and Ottawa County’s distribution systems.
“One thing about this plant that’s unique,” Wetzel said. “Everybody here is certified in the lab and everybody here is a certified operator with the state EPA.”
At most plants, they have lab personnel, maintenance personnel and operators, he said.
At this plant, there is no separate lab personnel. Each operator does his own lab analysis, interprets the data, goes out to adjust the treatment process accordingly and, finally, works two days a week as a maintenance person. That is in addition to the two days a week as an operator.
“Everybody here is cross-trained,” Wetzel said. “I believe this is the wave of the future.”
When people take a drink of water in the area, Wetzel hopes they’ll appreciate the process it went through to reach the glass, and appreciate the work put in at the treatment plant.
The need for potable water does not take a vacation.
“The guys were here last night, they’ll be here tonight,” he said. “We’re here 24 hours per day, seven days a week — whether it’s a holiday — no matter what.”
Photo: (Photo: Jon Stinchcomb/News Herald)
View original article at: Water treatment plant experts reflect on algal blooms