WILMINGTON — Protection of the city’s water took center stage at Thursday’s Wilmington City Council meeting.
Council approved a resolution authorizing the hiring of outside counsel to represent the city in a national lawsuit case filed in a federal court in South Carolina. Public Works Chairperson Kelsey Swindler said this is in relation to Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) being found in the city’s water supplies.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website, PFAS is “a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals. PFAS have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940s.”
PFAS can be found in localized drinking and associated with facilities such as wastewater and treatment plants.
The EPA website indicates people exposed to it for a long period of time could develop health issues, which vary depending on the chemical exposure. These could include increased cholesterol levels, effects on the immune system, effects on infant birth weights, cancer (for PFOA), and thyroid hormone disruption (for PFOS).
Lawsuits are due to the unnamed manufacturers of the chemicals because of concerns those manufacturers may have known the dangers of the chemicals longer than they conveyed.
“We’re joining with many water systems across the country that are finding similar levels of chemicals in their own water, ” said Swindler.
Mayor John Stanforth praised Travis Luncan, the city’s water protection coordinator, for the certificate of recognition he received from Ohio EPA Director Laurie Stevenson.
The certificate is for “efforts taken to protect the city’s source of drinking water through completion of a drinking water source protection plan.”
According to Stanforth, only about 10 of those certificates are given out annually from the EPA director.
“What a great feather in our cap,” said Stanforth. “Great job, Travis.”
Megan Marhelski, a geologist with the Ohio EPA who was described as “instrumental” in helping with the plan, congratulated the city for successfully completing its plan.
“A Source Water Protection Plan details the activities that public water systems, like Wilmington, will implement to protect the source of their drinking water to ensure that residents have safe, clean water to drink,” said Marhelski.
According to her, out of the 120 public water systems in south-west Ohio, “only about 50% have completed a source water protection plan that has been endorsed by Ohio EPA.”
She described Luncan as dedicated to protecting the city’s drinking water source and praised his efforts in creating alliances with multiple organizations including the Ohio EPA, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Clinton County Port Authority, and Wilmington College.
“Travis is doing an amazing job bringing local, state, and federal agencies to assist in Wilmington’s source water protection program,” said Marhelski.
She also recognized Public Works Director Rick Schaeffer, the council, and Stanforth for “recognizing the importance of source water protection” and for creating the water protection coordinator position.
Safety/Service Director Brian Shidaker reassured councilmembers and attendees that, in regards to snow removal, the city has a list of priorities. Shidaker said he wanted to share this with councilmembers so they can share it with constituents.
They first tackle the “hot spots” — locations where an “imminent risk of physical harm” can occur (intersections, bridge surfaces, hills and curbs). Second is the main thoroughfares such as South Street, Main Street, Rombach Avenue, and others which are cleared. Shidaker described them as the “most critical for our emergency vehicles’ routing.”
Secondary streets like some subdivisions, cul-de-sacs, and others are plowed after the main thoroughfares are passable.
Mayor John Stanforth told those in attendance the City of Wilmington had used over 2,000 tons of salt on roads in just the past week. This is in comparison to the previous winter season; Stanforth said the city used under 1,000 tons.
Stanforth assured attendees the salt supply remains in good shape by saying, “We have plenty of salt to salt our french fries.”
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574