West Farmington facing continuing water issues

West Farmington Mayor Shirley McIntosh said the issues at the water plant are numerous, due to its age and lack of funding

WEST FARMINGTON, Ohio (WKBN) – A chemical that may be linked to cancer and other health issues has been found in the water in West Farmington.

But that’s not where the problems in West Farmington’s water supply end.

The village has been slapped with repeated violation notices from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, which sent a letter to Mayor Shirley McIntosh on May 18, 2015, saying that due to the violations, Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler was recommending $10,200 penalty for civil penalties.

The village did not end up paying those fines. Instead, it completed a “Utility Management Training Series,” offered by the Rural Community Assistance Program, in lieu of submitting the civil penalty.

According to the Ohio EPA, violations in West Farmington included failing to have a licensed operator of record staffing requirements; to monitor for total coliform, Trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids; provide sufficient filtration for treated surface water; submit monthly operating reports; issue public notification and submit a copy of the required public notification of violations.

Those violations have dated back to 2010. Mayor McIntosh took office in 2015, and she said she has been working to correct the problems since that time.

McIntosh said there are numerous problems, including a lack of money and the age of the plant, which are causing the issues. She said the village has been working with the Ohio EPA to correct its issues, and she stressed that the water is safe to drink.

“If the water wasn’t safe to drink, we’d have to put out a ‘Do Not Drink order,'” she said on Friday.

West Farmington has been under a drinking water advisory since March 25, 2015, according to the Ohio EPA’s website. That advisory says drinking the water is OK, but “those with health concerns should consult their doctors.”

Some residents say they are concerned, however.

The Jones family lives in West Farmington and said they have been told not to give the water to animals on their farm. They said they now rely on bottled water, which impacts their finances.

Jones said the family questions how clean the water is that is running to the house.

“I’m concerned for my children more than anything. We quit drinking it, shorten showers, cooler showers,” he said.

The family has been getting drinking water notices for months. They say the level of Trihalomethanes is higher than the EPA’s standard of .080 parts per million.

With each notice, the level gets higher.

In October 2015, the chemical was at .087. In December, the level rose to .102. The most recent test, taken on February 4, show levels at .123.

Trihalomethanes are formed in drinking-water primarily as a result of chlorination of organic matter present naturally in raw water supplies, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are studying increased exposure to Trihalomethanes for a potential link to cancer and tumors in rodents.

The drinking water notice states that people drinking the water over many years may experience problems with their liver, kidneys, central nervous system and may have an increased risk of getting cancer.

“I have 16 cows in the barn that drink it. I have my dogs, my goats, my kids. It’s just scary,” Jones said.

McIntosh said a recent test of Trihalomethanes from Girdle Road North was under the EPA threshold.

McIntosh said the water plant is under much scrutiny by the Ohio EPA. Because the 40-year-old plant gets its water from the surface, rather than a well, it is very difficult to treat.

Because it is a surface water plant, the EPA requires a class 3 operator to handle its technical operations. The village has not had one since last September, and the EPA sent a February 6, 2016 violation to McIntosh as a result.

The plant’s Operator of Record resigned Dec. 28, 2014, according to an Ohio EPA form. The village has been given until July 1 to find a new class 3 operator.

The village does have a consultant with a class 4 license, who works four days a week. The EPA also visits about once a week, McIntosh said.

Ohio EPA spokesperson Heidi Griesmer said the the EPA has been working with the village, which has been trying to correct its issues. She added that the village is not in violation of any Ohio laws and issued this statement on Friday, as well as the director’s findings:

West Farmington is not in violation of any treatment rules that we are aware of. The system is working toward connecting to another public water system in the county. We are providing funding and assistance to help them connect to another water system.

Plans are in the works to build 15 miles of new water lines through western Trumbull County to West Farmington. That project is expected to begin in 2017.

McIntosh said it has been difficult to get the water department up to standard for its nearly 300 customer, due to financial constraints.

“It’s like trying to keep something afloat that’s basically hemorrhaging on life support,” she said. “It has many issues. Many issues that would cost a lot of money to address. We don’t have a lot of money.”

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