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County a good option

A plan being considered by St. Clairsville officials to resolve longstanding water system challenges sounds promising. Unless significant drawbacks are identified, it should be pursued — and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency should go along.

Expensive repairs and upgrades to the existing water system would have to be made to bring it into compliance with OEPA mandates issued last month. The agency had set a two-year deadline for the requirements to be met.

As Mayor Kathryn Thalman explained during a press conference last week, OEPA concerns date back to 2015. But, because municipal officials in office until earlier this year were considering selling the water and sewer systems to a private company, “very little was done with the water plant,” Thalman noted.

Still, city officials have not been idle. The OEPA requirement contains 16 separate mandates for action, the mayor noted. “So far, in just under four months, our team has accomplished 14 out of these 16,” she said last week.

The two remaining challenges are big ones, however. One is addressing leaks in the water distribution system. City officials have begun work on that.

But the other is finding a water treatment solution that meets OEPA standards. Rather than undertaking an expensive upgrade of the existing municipal water treatment plant, buying water from the Belmont County Water and Sanitary Sewer district is an option, Thalman said.

For the county system to supply St. Clairsville’s needs, previously planned upgrades to it will be necesary. County district Director Scott Porter noted last week that the work is expected to take about two years.

That plan was discussed during a St. Clairsville City Council teleconference meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday.

Let us hope OEPA officials adopt the attitude the project will be worth the wait.

As we have pointed out previously, the current two-year deadline should be extended by the agency, if St. Clairsville officials choose to go with the county service option.

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